Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) - a congenital condition in which a small, flap-like opening between the right and left upper chambers of the heart doesn't close properly. Normally the opening, the foramen ovale, closes within a year or two of birth. In about one out of four people, this doesn't happen and symptoms may occur. In a baby, the skin will turn bluish when straining to cry or pass stool. Many times, however, the condition isn't detected at all until later in adulthood when other heart issues require studies and examinations that reveal the condition.
There are two types of treatment for this condition. In the past, patients have been placed on blood-thinning medications to manage it. More recently, a procedure has been developed to offer a permanent solution which eliminates the use of these long term medications. The procedure involves using a catheter to insert a small, permanent device in the heart wall to stop the abnormal blood flow between the two chambers. Under local anesthesia, a catheter is inserted into the patient's groin in which the device is placed and moved to the heart. During the short procedure, the doctor will use an intracardiac echo device inserted through the other side of the groin to watch the heart structure and monitor blood flow. This simple procedure lasts between one and two hours.