Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) Closure

The Structural Heart and Valve Disease team at the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute (SHVI) and the Department of Neurology at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) work together to offer a closure procedure for patients who have had a stroke with no known cause.

The Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

A human fetus naturally has a hole in the wall (septum) between the left atrium and the right atrium (the two upper chambers of the heart). This hole is called the patent foramen ovale or PFO. The PFO allows blood to circulate without going to the fetus’ lungs, which won’t begin working until birth. After birth, when the baby’s lungs are working, the hole typically closes because it is no longer needed.

About 25 percent of humans have a hole that didn’t close completely, which allows blood to leak from the right atrium to the left atrium, rather than going to the lungs first. Usually, this isn’t a problem and individuals can live normal lives with an unclosed PFO.

Sometimes, however, an open PFO can be a “side door” that allows very small blood clots, which the lungs normally filter out of the blood, to bypass the lungs and travel to the brain.

Closing the Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

Studies have shown that closing a PFO may be as good as drug therapy in limiting blood clots and reducing your risk of stroke.

The Structural Heart and Valve Disease team at the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute (SHVI) and the Department of Neurology at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) work together to offer a closure procedure for patients who have had a stroke with no known cause.

During this catheter-based procedure (medical procedure that uses a catheter to deliver instruments and devices that are used to correct a medical condition), you will be under conscious (twilight) sedation. Using a local anesthetic (special medicine to control pain), your cardiologist will make a small incision in your groin and then thread a catheter through a vein and up to your heart and the area where the hole is located. Your doctor will then use the catheter to deliver the closure device. Over time, your own tissue will grow over the device, making it permanent.

The closure procedure takes about one hour. Most patients remain overnight in the hospital after a PFO closure procedure.

If you have had a stroke with no known cause, take with your primary-care doctor, cardiologist or neurologist to see if you have an open PFO and whether closure of the PFO might be an option for you.

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Patent foramen ovale closure device.