While a baby is growing in the mother’s womb, there is a natural opening between the top right and the top left sides of the heart (atria). This allows blood to bypass the baby’s lungs since, while in the womb, the baby receives oxygen from the mother’s placenta.

With the baby’s first breath, two partitions are naturally pushed together, closing the gap and allowing blood to flow into the baby’s lungs. Over the first few weeks of life, these two partitions naturally seal and normal blood circulation occurs.

In 25 percent of the population, however, these partitions do not fully seal and a small amount of blood may continue to cross from the right side to the left side of the heart without passing through the lungs. This is called a patent foramen ovale (PFO).

In the vast majority of people, the presence of a PFO causes no health problems for their entire lives. It has been noted that PFO is more common in patients who experience migraine with aura. But, many patients with a PFO do not have migraine headaches and many migraine patients do not have a PFO. Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence that fixing a PFO will benefit migraines.


Detecting and Diagnosing PFO

Your doctor will thoroughly review your symptoms and give you a physical exam. Your doctor may also order an echocardiogram to exam blood flow and the structures in your heart.



An echocardiogram (echo for short) is a cardiac ultrasound that helps assess heart conditions.

Treatment Options for PFO

Most of the time, PFO doesn't cause significant health problems, and doesn't require treatment. When a PFO is serious enough to cause problems, healthcare providers may recommend a procedure to close the hole.


ASD and PFO Closure

Atrial Septal Defects (ASD), including Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) are holes or defects between the two upper chambers of the heart. If you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor may close or repair the defect.