Closing a Hole in the Heart

A minimally invasive procedure provides treatment for patients with a patent foramen ovale (PFO) who had a previous stroke

Dr. Poulin and colleagues performing a PFO closure procedureUnder normal conditions, blood returns from your body to the heart through the right upper chamber (atrium) and then is pumped through the lungs to get oxygen. Freshly oxygenated blood then returns to the heart’s left atrium to be pumped to the rest of the body. A thin wall called a septum separates the two atria, preventing blood flow between them.

For approximately one in four individuals, an anatomical feature known as the foramen ovale—a small hole in the septal wall that enables circulation in utero and naturally closes after birth—remains open into adulthood. Known as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), this condition does not lead to adverse health effect for the vast majority of patients. However, in some cases, a blood clot can move through the PFO from the right side of the heart and eventually reach the brain, causing a stroke.

Treatment for PFO

PFO closure is a minimally invasive catheter procedure in which a small device is implanted via a catheter inserted into a large vein in the groin. Once the device has reached the heart, it is positioned on each side of the septal wall, where it will permanently remain in place to stop the abnormal flow of blood between the heart’s two atrial chambers. During this procedure, ultrasound imaging is used to guide the procedure and size the device that is needed.

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