Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a hole-in-the-heart condition that’s common but rarely causes health problems. If you do need treatment, PFO closure in the capable hands of Ronald Levine, MD, and Ronald Caputo, MD, FACC, FSCAI, of Levine Heart & Wellness in Naples, Florida, is the answer. These highly experienced physicians specialize in performing minimally invasive procedures like PFO closure using cardiac catheterization techniques to avoid the need for surgery. Call Levine Heart & Wellness today to find out more or schedule a consultation using the online form.
PFO stands for patent foramen ovale, which is a type of hole in the heart. When a baby is developing in the womb, there’s a small opening called the foramen ovale in the wall of their heart between the left and right upper chambers.
A baby doesn’t need to breathe in the womb, so getting oxygen into the bloodstream doesn’t involve the lungs. Having the foramen ovale open is, therefore, more efficient.
Once a baby is born, the pressure of their heart pumping closes the foramen ovale flap, which usually fuses shut during infancy. If the hole stays open, it’s known as a PFO.
Around 25% of people have a PFO, but because it doesn’t cause any problems, most of them never realize it. It’s a condition that often comes to light during tests for unrelated health problems or routine exams.
The reason why some people have a PFO isn’t clear, although there could be a genetic link.
PFO closure is a procedure to seal the hole in the foramen ovale. The most common way to achieve this is with minimally invasive cardiac catheterization techniques.
Cardiac catheterization involves your provider at Levine Heart & Wellness inserting a thin tube (catheter) into a vein in your groin. They then use echocardiogram imaging to guide the placement of the PFO closure device. This device plugs the hole in your foramen ovale.
In some cases, cardiac catheterization for PFO closure isn’t possible or advisable. In these cases, surgical repair might be necessary.
The majority of people who have a PFO don’t have any problems that need treating — in fact, most don’t know they have the condition. There are times, though, when having a PFO might be a risk to your health.
It’s possible that small blood clots in your heart could move through a PFO and migrate to your brain, causing a stroke. You might need to undergo PFO closure if you’ve had several strokes that don’t have any identifiable cause.
It’s been known for a PFO to result in large quantities of blood bypassing the lungs, which leads to hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels). If you go scuba diving and get decompression illness, an air blood clot could potentially travel through your PFO.
You might have additional heart defects as well as a PFO. Sometimes your provider at Levine Heart & Wellness performs a PFO closure during a procedure to address another heart problem. It’s also possible that there’s a link between PFO and migraines, but this isn’t certain.
If you have any heart health concerns or questions about PFO closure, call Levine Heart & Wellness today or book an appointment online.