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.
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.