Understand Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
The Foramen Ovale is an opening, similar to a small flap, between the top left and right chambers (atria) of the heart. Everyone is born with this opening, which is essential to the blood flow of the developing fetus. After birth, this opening generally seals itself closed within a few months as the heart begins its normal function of pumping blood on its own, no longer needing to receive oxygen from the mother’s blood supply.
In some individuals, the opening does not close. It remains open, which is called a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO). This happens in about 25 percent of the population. There is no definitive cause as to why it happens, although some researchers believe genetics may play a role. In many cases, the PFO causes no problems and a person goes on to live a normal, healthy life. However, in some cases, a PFO has been linked to other health issues, such as ischemic stroke.