Patent Foramen Ovale: What is it?

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: May 2, 2016

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a heart condition that you would not know unless either you had it or you are a physician that studies the heart. PFO is a condition where the two chambers of the heart are not completely separated. In essence there is a hole in the heart. It creates a small “access way” between the two chambers of the heart, which allows the oxygenated and the non-oxygenated blood to intermix. The right chamber leaks into the left chamber of the heart or vice versa. 

Every human fetus has a foramen ovale, which is an opening between the two chambers. Since the baby has yet to breathe air, the “hole” allows blood to skip the lungs. The mother’s oxygenated blood flows through the baby until birth. Once the baby is born and can provide oxygen to the blood through its lungs, the opening closes. This can take up to a few month after birth. For some individuals, up to around 25%, the hole doesn’t completely close. This doesn’t typically result in any problems, unless a blood clot is present.

Diagnosis of Patent Foramen Ovale usually happens when the patient complains of migraines with aura or when he/she suffers from a stroke. It is always a good idea to seek medical advice if a close family member is diagnosed with a PFO as that increases your risk of a PFO or if you are a scuba diver as a PFO in that case increases your risk of stroke if you develop decompression sickness.

In very rare cases, blood can skip past the lungs which results in low oxygenated blood, hypoxia. Hypoxia can be a dangerous condition because it is a deprivation of oxygen to cells in the body.

Patent Foramen Ovales can be closed via minimally invasive methods, which the physicians at Tampa Cardiovascular Associates perform. Contact Tampa Cardiovascular Associates today at 813-975-2800 or schedule an appointment online at

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: 02/05/2016

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