Patent Foramen Ovale | Diagnosis and Treatment

How is patent foramen ovale diagnosed?

Most people with a patent foramen ovale (PFO) have no symptoms, so it’s most often found “incidentally” during an exam for another problem.

If your baby sometimes turns blue for short amounts of time, your doctor may order one or more of these tests:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound). As part of the echocardiogram, the doctor may also do a bubble study. For this study, an intravenous (IV) line that contains saline is put into your child’s arm, causing little bubbles in the bloodstream. If your child has a PFO, these bubbles work their way to the left side of the heart and show up on the echocardiogram.

What are the treatment options for patent foramen ovale?

Most PFOs don’t need any treatment. If your child needs surgery for another heart defect, the PFO may be closed at the time of the surgery.

In rare cases, your child’s doctor may recommend closing the PFO surgically. Some studies have shown that closing a PFO may relieve migraines or reduce the risk of stroke in those who have already had a stroke, but the evidence is not conclusive.

The procedure to close a PFO is a fairly simple. A catheter is used to guide a special closing device to the area of the PFO. The device expands, forming a patch that covers the hole.

After the procedure, most children go home the same day or the next day.

The doctor may prescribe aspirin for your child to take for a few months after the procedure as a precautionary measure.