Patent Foramen Ovale
A small opening is usually present between the two upper chambers of the heart during the development of a fetus. Normally, it closes during infancy.
When it does not close and leaves a hole in the heart, it is called patent foramen ovale. It is very common to have this condition and most people with patent foramen ovale may not know that they have it. It is usually discovered when diagnosing for other problems.
If you have patent foramen ovale, it is a matter of concern. But, most people need not be treated for the condition.
Causes of Patent Foramen Ovale
However the cause for patent foramen ovale is still unknown, researchers think that genes play a role. Because a baby does not breathe when it is inside the womb of the mother, the lungs of the baby would not be functioning.
Therefore, it is not required for the heart to pass blood to the lungs. Instead, a bypass route is used to circulate the blood from the body of the mother to the body of the baby.
When this blood is passing through the umbilical cord, most of the blood travels through the foramen ovale into left atrium. From here, it passes through the left ventricle and is then circulated to the whole of baby’s body.
When the baby is born and the lungs of the baby begin working, this pattern changes. Instead of the umbilical cord, the oxygen-rich blood now comes in from the lungs. The normal route for blood circulation now comes into effect.
When this change happens, the blood pressure of the heart makes the opening of the foramen flap to get closed. In most people, this occurs during infancy. In case, if this process does not happen, it causes patent foramen ovale.
Although prevention is not possible, you could take certain precautionary measures like staying fit, following medications to prevent clotting of blood, etc.
How is Patent Foramen Ovale diagnosed?
Your doctor may use one of the following tests to diagnose the existence of the syndrome:
- Saline Contrast Study
- Color Flow Doppler
- Trans-esophageal Echocardiogram
Symptoms of Patent Foramen Ovale
Most people with the syndrome do not have any signs or symptoms. It is usually a hidden condition that does not produce any kind of symptom.
How is Patent Foramen Ovale treated?
However most people with the syndrome do not require treatment your doctor may suggest closure of the patent foramen ovale. This can be done if low oxygen levels in your blood are attributed to patent foramen ovale.
Medication is used to treat the condition, to prevent the clotting of blood and to thin the blood.
In some of the instances, doctors may suggest closure of the patent foramen ovale in individuals who have had recurrent strokes despite having medical intervention.
Patent foramen ovale is treated by surgically closing the hole between the left and right sections of the heart. Some procedures that serve the purpose are:
- Device Closure - In this method, the doctor inserts a device that plugs in the hole. A slender tube called catheter is used for the purpose. However rare, complications may arise in this procedure due to tearing of heart or blood vessels or the catheter getting dislocated.
- Surgery - Your doctor can close the hole by stitching up the flaps surgically. This can be performed either through a small incision or through robots.