In your mother's womb before you're born, you have a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of your heart. This hole (called the foramen ovale) is a normal part of your heart as you grow. It usually closes after birth. Patent foramen ovale (PFO) happens when this hole doesn’t fully close.
Do You Need PFO Surgery?
The PFO lets blood from one upper heart chamber leak into the other upper chamber. But it doesn’t cause any health problems on its own. You could have a PFO and never know it.
So why would you need treatment? Other conditions may get worse if you also have a PFO.
Stroke Risk & PFO
PFOs can let small blood clots reach your brain, causing a stroke. About 50% of people with strokes without other known causes also have a PFO.
Medicine that shrinks blood clots can lower your stroke risk.
Patent Foramen Ovale Treatment at UVA Health
If you have a PFO that needs treatment, our expert heart surgeons can close the hole.
The procedure isn't open-heart surgery. You won't have large cuts on your body or a long recovery time.
To close the hole, we use a small tube called a catheter. The catheter goes into your blood vessels using a small cut (is a minimally invasive procedure). We patch up the hole through the catheter.
The patch lets heart muscle cells grow on it. That helps seal the PFO and prevent blood from leaking through.
Dr. Lim discusses Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO, a hole in the heart that is a common cause for stroke. PFO Closure provides a minimally invasive treatment option for patients. View PFO procedure transcript.
Are You at Risk for a PFO?
The foramen ovale is a normal part of being a fetus. Everyone has one in the womb.
In about 25% of people, the hole doesn't close (they have a PFO). Most people with PFOs don't get any health problems from it.
At UVA Health, we find PFOs using a test called an echocardiogram with a saline contrast study (also called a bubble study). Using this test, our heart specialists can see if tiny bubbles in your blood passing through the right upper chamber of your heart show up in the left upper chamber.