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Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is an opening in the upper chambers of the heart due to a flap of tissue that failed to close normally after a baby is born. There is no known cause.

PFO: what you should know

  • Treatment is not necessary in most cases. Infants born with PFO and no other heart conditions are not considered to have an abnormal heart condition.
  • Older adults with PFOs may have a higher risk of a certain type of stroke called paradoxical thromboembolic stroke.
  • There are usually no symptoms associated with PFO.

Care for patent foramen ovale at Rush

An imaging test called an echocardiogram can be used to diagnose a PFO.

The condition, however, doesn't require treatment unless other heart problems exist or if the patient has had recurrent, unexplained strokes. For patients with stroke and PFO, Rush is one of only a few centers in the U.S. conducting research on closing such defects.

If treatment is required, a highly trained heart expert at Rush will likely close the PFO using a procedure called cardiac catheterization.

Catheterization avoids the need for the chest to be opened. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded to the heart through a blood vessel in the arm, upper thigh or neck.

Why choose Rush for patent foramen ovale care

  • Experts at the Rush Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease Program provide personalized, coordinated treatment for heart problems that are present at birth.
  • Pediatric heart specialists at Rush are leaders in clinical trials of new therapies for PFO and other congenital heart defects. This means patients at Rush often have access to treatments before they are widely available. 

Departments and programs that treat this condition