What is a PFO closure? What condition(s) does it treat?
A patent foramen ovale, or PFO, is a hole between the wall of the upper two chambers of the heart (the right and left atria) that didn’t close up after birth as it typically does. This hole allows blood and sometimes small blood clots to flow from one chamber to the other. The blood clots may then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. PFOs occur in about 25 percent of Americans. Although this defect usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, studies have shown that it is most common in people who experience migraines or unexplained stroke.
During a catheter-based PFO closure procedure, we use an implant to close the hole in the heart and restore normal blood flow.
The UK Structural Heart team also performs closures for atrial and ventricular septal defects, which are holes that occur in the heart upper and lower chambers, respectively.
What should I expect during a PFO closure procedure?
As experts in this minimally invasive procedure, the UK Structural Heart Program performs more PFO closures than any other institution in the tri-state area. During this procedure, we use cardiac catheterization to seal the PFO. Guided by state-of-the-art cardiac imaging not available elsewhere in the region, we insert a catheter, or tube, into a vein in your groin and thread it into your heart. Once the tube is in place, we push the implant through the tube and then expand the implant to cover the PFO.
The entire procedure usually takes about 30 minutes, and patients return home the same day. Because the minimally invasive PFO closure requires only local anesthesia, patients recover faster and are at a lower risk for complications than those who have surgery to correct the defect.