Patent Foramen Ovale
Treatment

Treatment of a patent foramen ovale (PFO) is necessary only if the condition causes problems. In the past, open-heart surgery with a long recovery period was required. Heart specialists now close PFOs with a non-surgical procedure that involves cardiac catheterization and a special device that patches the hole between the right and left atrium.

In cardiac catheterization, a long, flexible, narrow tube called a catheter is inserted into a vein in the leg or neck and threaded through the vein to the heart. The size of the PFO is then measured and a repair device is selected for closure. If the PFO is unusually large, catheter closure may not be possible.

A PFO closure device consists of two small metal umbrellas or disc-like frames that fold against each other. These frames or discs are connected at their centers and covered with synthetic fabric. The device is folded into a special catheter positioned in the left atrium. One side of the patch is opened and positioned against the atrial wall covering the hole on the left side. As the remaining umbrella opens in the right atrium, it folds against the atrial wall holding the device in place and closing the PFO. Over time, heart tissue grows over the implant and it becomes part of the heart.

The PFO closure is conducted in our Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and takes about two and a half hours. Patients are allowed to return home the same day as the procedure or the following morning.

Complications

Complications during PFO closure are rare and almost all can be treated immediately. There is a small risk of blockage of the groin vessels used for catheterization, although these usually can be treated with medication. Serious complications such as stroke are extremely rare, occurring in less than one in over 400 patients. Complications occurring days after the procedure, such as breakage, movement or infection of the device, also are extremely rare, occurring in less than one percent of patients.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart Center

Cardiothoracic Surgery Program
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-3501
Fax: (415) 353-4144

Interventional Cardiology Program
1975 Fourth St., Second Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-4704
Fax: (415) 353-4144
Appointment information

Pediatric Heart Center Clinic at Mission Bay
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2008
Fax: (415) 353-4144
Appointment information

Related Conditions