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ASD and PFO Closures

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
The heart is divided into four chambers. The upper chambers are called the right and left atria. The lower chambers are the right and left ventricles. In fetal circulation the foramen ovale is an opening that allows blood to bypass the lungs and go directly from the right atria to the left atria. Shortly after birth, the higher pressure in the left atria and the lower pressure in the right atria causes permanent closure of the foramen ovale in the majority of people. A PFO occurs when the opening does not close. This opening can allow blood to pass from the right atria to the left atria. Often, a PFO is not discovered until adulthood. PFOs are a cause of cryptogenic stroke (a stroke that cannot be linked to a specific cause).

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An ASD is a hole in the part of the septum that separates the atria—the upper chambers of the heart. This heart defect allows oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium to flow into the right atrium instead of flowing to the left ventricle as it should. Children with ASD have few, if any, symptoms.

Figure A shows the structure and blood flow in the interior of a normal heart. Figure B shows a heart with an atrial septal defect, which allows oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium.

Half of all ASDs close on their own or are so small that no treatment is needed. Medium to large ASDs that need treatment can be repaired using a catheter procedure or open-heart surgery.

Catheter procedures are much easier on patients than surgery because they involve only a needle puncture in the skin where the catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into a vein or an artery. Doctors don't have to surgically open the chest or operate directly on the heart to repair the defect(s). This means that recovery is easier and quicker.

As part of your comprehensive evaluation, we work with a team of specialists (neurologists, radiologists, imaging experts) to determine the optimal treatment plan for your specific condition.