Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO): During development, a small flap-like opening (foramen ovale) is usually present between the right and left upper chambers of the heart. It normally closes naturally during infancy. When the foramen ovale doesn’t close, it’s called a Patent Foramen Ovale. It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults has a PFO; however, most people with the condition never know they have it because it usually has no symptoms. A PFO is often discovered during tests for other problems.
Causes: Congenital heart defects are generally caused by an error in heart development in utero. The exact cause is unknown, although could be attributed to genetic or environmental factors. Rubella or drug and alcohol use during pregnancy increase the risks that a baby will be born with CHD.
Possible complications: A PFO usually does not cause any issues. Some studies have found the disorder is more common in individuals with certain conditions, such as unexplained stroke and migraine with aura. In most cases, there are other reasons for these conditions, and it’s just a coincidence the person also has a patent foramen ovale. The possible link between patent foramen ovale and stroke or migraine is controversial and research studies are ongoing.
Treatment: Treatment is usually not necessary as PFOs do not typically present any issues. Surgery is typically only used to correct a PFO if a child is having heart surgery for other defects.
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