Because PFO does not typically cause symptoms other than migraine, stroke or TIA, doctors usually find it while investigating another health concern. For example, if you have a stroke, it may occur because blood clots that get through the PFO are free to flow to your brain. These clots block blood flow. When a clot blocks a blood vessel in or leading to the brain, it cuts off the brain’s supply of oxygen.

If you have serious migraines related to PFO, they may be caused by chemicals and hormones that travel from the blood in your veins to the blood in your arteries without first circulating through your lungs. As a result, these chemicals and hormones can push through your blood-brain barrier, causing migraines.

If you go to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms, your doctor may perform an echocardiogram to evaluate for a PFO. This type of test relies on ultrasound technology, or sound waves, to capture an image of your heart’s structure. During the echocardiogram, your doctor will study your heart carefully to identify anything that looks abnormal. Your doctor may also administer a saline solution into your body. If you have a PFO, your doctor will see small air bubbles traveling from the right side of your heart to the left.

Related Stories