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Patent foramen ovale

UF Health cardiologist Dr. Soffer closes a patent foramen ovale in a cath lab

What is patent foramen ovale?

Patent foramen ovale, or PFO, is a congenital (present-at-birth) condition that affects the inter-atrial septum (tissue between the right and left upper chamber of the heart). PFO is a flap-like hole in the inter-atrial septum that can allow blood to go from the right to left chambers and could be a cause for stroke.

PFOs are quite common, occurring in roughly one out of every four people. In most people treatment for the PFO is not required. However, if stroke is related with the PFO is diagnosed, closure is recommended.

When treatment is needed, the cardiovascular specialists at the UF Health Cardiovascular Center in Jacksonville can help. Our specialists, all faculty members of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, are experienced in treating and managing both of these conditions. Both conditions are treated with minimally invasive catheter-based options.

Patent foramen ovale: Symptoms

Though most people who have this condition do not experience symptoms or complications, some PFO symptoms and conditions may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Migraine headaches
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke

Your UF Health cardiologist can help you determine if these symptoms are related to a PFO.

Patent foramen ovale: Diagnosis

If your UF Health Jacksonville heart specialist suspects you may have a PFO that requires treatment, an echocardiogram (echo) to obtain detailed pictures of the heart will be recommended. Your doctor may also order what’s known as a “bubble test,” in which a saltwater solution is injected into the heart during the echo so your doctor can see whether the bubbles pass between the two chambers of the heart.

Patent foramen ovale: Treatment

If PFO is not causing any problems or symptoms, treatment is not required. In patients with PFO who have had blood clots or strokes, closure of the hole is recommended to reduce the risk of future strokes.

PFO closure is a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure that does not typically require general anesthesia. The procedure is performed via the femoral vein in the groin thought a small puncture incision on the skin. The catheter system, a thin flexible tube, is inserted in the groin, advanced into the heart and placed in the left upper chamber through the PFO hole. A two-disc device is inserted through the catheter and used to close hole in the heart by placing one disc on each side of the hole. After the device is implanted, the catheter is removed and then the small incision in the groin will be stitched.

Medications to prevent clot formation (blood thinners) may be an alternative for the treatment of PFO.

Why choose UF Health Jacksonville?

The internationally recognized heart team experts at the UF Health Cardiovascular Center are leaders in cardiac care, research and education. Our doctors have been leaders in percutaneous transcatheter interventions and minimally invasive heart and chest surgery for more than two decades. Our interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons are professors and researchers in one of the nation's largest cardiovascular training programs at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

Our cardiologists, as faculty of the University of Florida Division of Cardiology – Jacksonville, participate in numerous national and international clinical trials. Using the most sophisticated equipment available, the center offers state-of-the-art diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services. Many leading-edge interventional therapies and more treatment options offered in Northeast Florida are only available at the UF Health Cardiovascular Center – Jacksonville, which we believe offers the best possible outcomes for our cardiovascular patients.

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