Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) : The hole in your Heart

Foramen Ovale is a medical condition found in most of the newly born babies. In this medical condition there is a hole between the upper chamber of heart (i.e. right and left auricle). It is a common phenomena in babies. But this hole is closed automatically within a few weeks after birth. But one in every five person is not so lucky and his/her Foramen Ovale remain open. This medical condition is called Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), also known as Atrial septal defect.

What happens to our body due to Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) ?
Our right auricle contains the deoxygenated blood while left auricle contains the oxygenated blood. The hole between these two chambers of heart mixes the pure blood with impure blood. The same blood is then sent to different body parts and the same mixed blood is sent to lungs to get oxygenated. No major symptoms can be noticed of this medical condition in childhood. But as the person reaches 30's some symptoms become visible. These symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Getting tired soon
  • Swelling in legs anf feet
  • heart palpitations
  • heart murmurs

These symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms are more clear in people with large PFO hole, while people with small hole might never feel any symptom.
 Note: In very rare cases if a baby have both PFO and some other heart condition then blue tint may appear on skin while crying or passing stool.

Health Risks related to Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

  • A person suffering from PFO may live a healthy life, but chances of getting a stroke attack is more compared to a person with no PFO. 
  • In our last article betterhealthfacts.com discussed the effect of Air bubble getting injected into veins, which can cause problem is a person suffering from PFO. 
  • In some researches migraine is found connected to PFO. Those who have got their PFO corrected through surgery reported reduction in migraine.

Why do newly born babies have Foramen Ovale ?
When the arteries and veins develop in a baby inside the womb of her mother it needs blood supply. The hole (Foramen Ovale) provides more blood instantly to the heart to pump into these newly developed arteries. This Foramen Ovale does not cause any harm to baby as at that time lungs of mother are oxygenating the blood for baby. Baby's own lungs don't oxygenate the blood as baby can't breathe in the womb. As the baby is born the Foramen Ovale closes itself within a few weeks.

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) Diagnosis
It can be done using ECG (echocardiogram) through a bubble test performed with saline water. The doctor checks it through ECG machine if the bubble passes between two upper chambers of heart.

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) Treatment
PFO can be closed through surgery. There are more than 20% chances that you have got a PFO in your heart. But you don't need to go for surgery unless your doctor tell you that your PFO is causing some trouble in your body. What happens in the surgery is visible in the gif image provided here.
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