A patent foramen ovale is an opening between the heart's right and left upper chambers—an opening that generally closes after birth during early infancy. It is a condition that doesn't typically require treatment, though it might lead to complications in some instances.
At CardioVascular Health Clinic, we offer comprehensive heart care services, helping patients recognize and address complex heart health issues.
A patent foramen ovale is an anomaly that forms shortly after birth.
A fetus does not breathe to get oxygenated blood. Before birth, the fetus receives oxygen-rich blood through the umbilical cord and from the placenta. The foramen ovale channels the blood through the baby's heart, where it is delivered throughout the body and to the brain. After the baby is born and starts to breathe, the foramen ovale begins to close. It is usually fully closed approximately one year after birth.
However, if the foramen ovale doesn't close, it is called a patent foramen ovale. This abnormality occurs in approximately one-quarter of the population. Most are never diagnosed.
Two upper and two lower chambers make up a normal heart. The atria, the upper chambers, receive incoming blood. The two lower chambers pump blood out of the heart by the left and right ventricles. A patent foramen ovale allows small quantities of blood to flow between the chambers, which sometimes causes medical complications.
There is no known cause.
A patent foramen ovale is asymptomatic, meaning most people with the condition never know they have it.
Physicians don't usually check for it unless the condition creates a medical issue. However, if a heart condition is suspected, your doctor might perform a screening.
In addition to asking about your past health, your healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination. A diagnosis will also require tests. Some of these include:
Your physician may perform other exams to view the patent foramen ovale, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
Physicians might perform these tests in conjunction with a noninvasive bubble study. During a bubble study, a saline solution is introduced into a blood vessel so that the progress of the bubbles can be monitored during the imaging tests.
Because a patent foramen ovale does not cause symptoms on its own, the condition is typically identified during a screening for another medical issue. The most common issue is stroke.
A patent foramen ovale allows tiny amounts of blood to transfer between the heart's chambers, allowing blood clots to sometimes travel to the left side of the heart. This can lead to a blood clot traveling to the brain, where it can trigger a stroke.
Other complications that can arise from this heart issue include:
Unless this condition leads to serious health complications, a physician might elect to monitor it rather than perform an intervention.
If you have a patent foramen ovale, you might be at increased risk of stroke. To reduce your risk, your doctor might recommend the following lifestyle habits:
If you are concerned about your heart health, please contact our helpful representatives to schedule a screening today.
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