Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
In patients with a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a small hole exists in the wall that divides the upper left and upper right chambers of the heart, creating a pathway for blood clots which can potentially lead to a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
The problem originates in the womb, when the fetus is not yet breathing and doesn't need much blood flowing through its lungs. Through a natural "shortcut," the mother's blood is diverted away from the lungs and into the body of the fetus, leaving a small hole between the heart chambers called the foramen ovale.
Normally, the foramen ovale opening should grow closed at birth or shortly thereafter. When it doesn't, emboli crossing from the right atrium to the left atrium of the heart can result in stroke if the emboli block an artery to the brain.
The minimally-invasive PFO closure procedure performed by the UW Health Heart and Vascular Care team may eliminate the need for open-heart surgery in certain patients.
That's because the device is implanted via a catheter that is navigated through some of the body's largest veins until it reaches the heart. The procedure may also prevent the need for PFO patients to be on life-long drug therapy to prevent strokes.