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Patent Foramen Ovale

What Is Patent Foramen Ovale?

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a medical condition used to describe a hole in the heart that does not close naturally after birth. The foramen ovale is a small flap-like opening located between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart. In an unborn child, this opening allows the blood to bypass the fetal lungs which do not function until birth. After the child is born, the foramen ovale closes naturally in the majority of cases.  But when it doesn't, the condition is called patent foramen ovale.

Patent foramen ovale is a common heart disorder that affects 1 out of 4 people. It may not be a major problem for most people despite venous blood leaking from the right atrium to the left. However, the condition can become severe due to the formation of blood clots. Regular health checkups are significant in determining the condition at the earliest and ensuring effective treatment. 


What are the Symptoms of Patent Foramen Ovale?

Most people with patent foramen ovale do not experience any major symptoms. Common signs such as chronic migraines, Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) or a stroke can indicate a hole in the heart. However, it is only after a comprehensive examination and diagnostic tests that a doctor can identify PFO symptoms. 

When to see a Doctor for Patent Foramen Ovale Treatment?

Consult a cardiologist in case your child turns blue while crying or having a bowel movement. If there is trouble feeding the baby or shows signs of poor growth, it is crucial to seek medical assistance. 

How is Patent Foramen Ovale Caused? 

The exact cause of PFO is unclear but it occurs in infants right after birth. Since the lungs of the fetus inside the womb are not functional, the blood goes around the baby’s lungs. But after birth, the blood flow through the heart changes and enters the left upper heart chamber from the lungs. However, due to genetics, or other heart abnormalities like atrial septal aneurysms (Chiari network), the foramen ovale does not close naturally. 

How Is Patent Foramen Ovale Diagnosed?

PFO symptoms are usually silent and the patients do not realise that they have the condition until a proper diagnosis. PFO is commonly diagnosed during regular health checkups or if the doctor suspects any unusual symptoms related to the heart. The doctor may recommend a variety of tests for an accurate PFO (patent foramen ovale) diagnosis which includes - 

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Color-Doppler
  • Saline contrast study

What are the Treatment Methods for Patent Foramen Ovale?

Most people with patent foramen ovale do not require treatment and the symptoms resolve on their own naturally. However, the doctor may suggest different options which can be effective in reducing the symptoms. Several medications and surgical procedures can manage the effects of PFO or even resolve them. Here are some options for effective patent foramen ovale treatment - 


  • Medications - Medications do not close the foramen ovale but the doctor prescribes certain drugs to help manage the symptoms depending on the heart health of the patient. Medicines like blood thinners can help prevent blood clots from forming. Several combination drugs can improve blood flow and prevent the condition from getting worse. However, if the doctor insists on closing the hole, surgery is the only effective treatment option. 


  • Surgical Procedures - Surgery for patent foramen ovale treatment is the only effective method to close the hole in the heart. If the patient has PFO and low blood oxygen levels, surgery may be required to prevent the condition from worsening. Cardiac catheterization is another procedure performed by a trained cardiologist for treating patients with PFO. Here are some surgical procedures for effective patent foramen ovale treatment -
    • Device closure
    • Surgical closure

How to Prevent Patent Foramen Ovale?

Patent foramen ovale gets noticed gradually when the symptoms worsen over time. Most patients with PFO may not even know they have the condition. However, it is important to get regular health checkups for early diagnosis and timely treatment. It is important to prevent blood clots and therefore, you must change certain activities and lifestyle habits which can increase the risk of complications. Patent foramen ovale cannot be prevented but there are certain things you can do to decrease the risk of complications - 

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Maintain cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Eat heart-healthy diet 
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Quit smoking or consuming alcohol
  • Get regular health check-ups

Why Choose BMB for Patent Foramen Ovale Treatment in Kolkata?

BM Birla Heart Research Centre is a super speciality hospital with modern infrastructure and state-of-the-art technology in Kolkata. BM Birla Heart Research Centre is the only hospital offering super speciality cardiac care in entire eastern India. With a 200+ bed capacity, cardiac rehabilitation services, cath labs and modular OTs, BM Birla Heart Research Centre has made a mark with its singular focus on the treatment of a variety of cardiac ailments. Here are a few advantages of choosing BM Birla Heart Research Centre for the treatment of patent foramen ovale:

  • Highly qualified and experienced cardiologists
  • Cutting-edge technology and the latest medical equipment
  • The transparent pricing structure for cost-effective treatment. 
  • Patient-centric high-quality care for a high success rate

Get in touch with our expert heart specialists at BM Birla Heart Research Centre, Kolkata for complete cardiac care. 




What is the difference between atrial septal defect (ASD) and patent foramen ovale (PFO)?

An ASD refers to a medical condition where septal tissue forms between the atria. ASD is mostly considered a congenital heart defect where the hole is generally bigger than that of a PFO. On the other hand, PFO occurs after birth when the foramen ovale fails to close. 


What are the complications of patent foramen ovale?

Possible complications of PFO can cause low blood oxygen and even stroke. A stroke usually occurs due to a blood clot that develops in veins and prevents the blood from pumping out. Therefore it is important to get a proper diagnosis for timely treatment.

Which is the best treatment for patent foramen ovale?

Surgical procedures are one of the most effective methods for patent foramen ovale treatment. While mild symptoms can be managed with medications to prevent blood clots, surgery is done to close the opening for long-term health benefits. Discuss your medical condition with your doctor for effective treatment.

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