A Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a flap essential when you are in your mothers womb. It is not a hole, unlike an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). In most people the flap seals spontaneously and in a quarter of the whole population, the flap can open briefly with a cough or sneeze.
The only people in whom the PFO might cause a problem are those who have had strokes or decompression illness and no other cause has been found.
What happens during PFO Closure?
Before your Cardiologist starts to repair the hole, you will need to be assessed using a small probe which is put down your throat called a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram.
Once it has been established that the hole can be repaired, a catheter will be inserted into a vein in your groin and passed up to your heart. A small balloon lays inside the catheter which is used to measure the exact size of the hole so your consultant can choose the best device to close it.
Using the probe in your throat and X-ray imaging, the consultant can make sure that the chosen device is in the correct position and so the two umbrellas on either side of the device can open up and close the hole.
You will go home the same day. You will need some blood thinners for a few months.
Find out more about different patients' experiences of having a PFO closure on the Different Strokes website, and you can watch one of our consultants, Dr Iqbal Malik, performing a PFO closure on YouTube.
PFO closure is a very safe procedure.
However complications can occur in about 1 in 100 people.
- At the groin puncture – bleeding, bruising, injury to the vein
- Internal bleeding at the time of the procedure which very rarely might need emergency surgery
- Palpitations even after you have gone home. These usually settle within a few weeks
- Stroke caused by blood clot passing through the heart