Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

Babies and children who need treatment for a patent foramen ovale (PFO) receive care from our team with expertise in device closure of PFO to treat the defect and reduce recovery time. 

For babies and children with a patent foramen ovale (PFO) — a small opening in the form of a flap in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart — a cardiac catheterization procedure can close the defect and allow blood flow to be more normal.

The expert interventional cardiology team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, specializes in using catheter procedures to close PFO in babies and children. 

What is a patent foramen ovale (PFO)?

A PFO is an opening between the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). Before birth, every baby has this opening, which is called a foramen ovale. The foramen ovale allows blood to flow from the placenta into the baby, bypassing the baby’s lungs while he or she is in utero. The foramen ovale typically closes after birth, within the first year of life. It is normal for babies to have a PFO, and about 20% of adults have a PFO. A PFO typically does not cause symptoms in babies who have one, and almost never needs to be treated in childhood.

In rare cases a PFO may lead to a stroke, because the PFO increases the risk of blood clots moving from the right atrium into the left, allowing them to travel to the brain. In these cases, device closure of PFO is done to prevent future strokes.

The location of a PFO is similar to the location on an atrial septal defect, but a PFO is usually smaller than an ASD. A PFO may also be associated with other congenital heart defects. With certain heart defects, the PFO allows adequate blood flow through the heart despite the additional defect. In these instances, the PFO may be closed as part of the patient’s overall treatment plan for their congenital heart defects.

How is a patent foramen ovale diagnosed? 

Tests used to diagnose ASD include an echocardiogram. A cardiac catheterization procedure (in which a small, thin tube is guided into the heart to examine the structure of the heart) may also be needed for diagnosis.

Treatment for patent foramen ovale 

For children needing treatment for a PFO, we use cardiac catheterization to close the defect with a small device. The interventional cardiologist guides a long, thin tube called a catheter through the blood vessels (usually through a tiny incision in the groin area, neck or wrist), using imaging to guide the catheter and place the device that will close the hole.

Why Choose Johns Hopkins All Children’s 

The cardiac catheterization program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s is led by James Thompson, M.D., a national leader and early adopter in using the most advanced cardiac catheterization methods. Learn more about our Interventional Cardiology Program.  

The Heart Institute team includes experts in all aspects of cardiac care for children and adults with congenital heart defects, so your child can receive comprehensive care from our team through adulthood. Learn more about our Cardiology Program.

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For more information or to make an appointment, give us a call at the phone number below. We serve families in the greater Tampa Bay area and beyond.

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