Patent Foramen Ovale

A hole in the heart isn’t quite as ominous as it sounds. Everyone is born with this flap-like hole in the heart’s two upper chambers between the left and right atrium.

For most people, the hole seals by itself shortly after birth.

But 25 percent of the general population retains that small hole, or patent foramen ovale. In most cases, it’s not outwardly evident in any way, with no obvious discomfort and no treatment required. Many people don’t even know they still have a hole in their heart.

That concerns doctors at the Heart & Vascular Institute because up to half of patients who have had a stroke with an unknown cause – a cryptogenic stroke – have a PFO. If you have a PFO, it can increase your risk of stroke by as much as 25 percent.


If You Have A PFO

If you have no signs of a PFO, other heart conditions or migraines, your doctor probably won’t recommend an echocardiogram -- a test used to diagnose the condition. Sometimes, a PFO is not diagnosed until after a stroke.

If your doctor suspects you might have a PFO, and tests confirm it, blood thinners can limit blood clots. Though research is not conclusive, it appears that small blood clots that pass through the PFO can reach the brain, blocking blood flow through the arteries and causing a stroke.

The risk of blood clots, particularly in the legs, increases as you age. More blood clots also increase the likelihood of some making it through the PFO to the brain, causing a stroke.


If Blood Thinners Don’t Work

If you need to repair a PFO, expect a full recovery and a resumption of your normal activities. 

Nonsurgical Procedure

Transcatheter Repair: Doctors at the Heart & Vascular Institute plug the hole in your heart with a closure device attached to a catheter – a long, flexible tube – inserted into a blood vessel in the groin, then guided to the heart. Before the procedure, a cardiac catheterization allows doctors to determine the precise size and location of the PFO.

The device, placed over each edge of the hole, provides a secure seal. Scar tissue eventually covers the device.

Surgery

Doctors can stitch the PFO shut after accessing the area through a very small incision. Patients undergoing surgery for a different heart problem may also consider having the patent foramen ovale repaired at the same time.

Meet our Patent Foramen Ovale Specialists:

Name Specialties Location
Azemi, Talhat, MD
860.972.5083
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Endovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Nuclear Cardiology
  • Vascular Medicine
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  • Hartford
Cheema, Mohiuddin, MD
860.696.5520
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Endovascular Surgery
  • Vascular Surgery
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  • Hartford
Hagberg, Robert Carl, MD
860.696.5520
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Endovascular Surgery
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  • Hartford
Kiernan, Francis John, MD
860.972.5083
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
Show Less
  • Hartford
McKay, Raymond George, MD
860.972.5083
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
Rana, Gaurav, MD
860.749.1985
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Echocardiography
  • Endovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Nuclear Cardiology
  • Vascular Medicine
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  • Enfield
Sadiq, Immad, MD
860.972.5083
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
Underhill, David Joseph, MD
860.696.5520
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Endovascular Surgery
  • Vascular Surgery
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  • Hartford
Yaffee, David, MD
860.696.5520
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
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  • Hartford
Our Patent Foramen Ovale Locations: