Patent Foramen Ovale

What is Patent Foramen Ovale?

During the development of a fetus, a small opening is usually present between the two upper chambers of the heart. Normally, it closes during infancy. When it does not close and leaves a hole in the heart, it is called patent foramen ovale. It is quite common to have this condition and most people with patent foramen ovale may not know that they have it. It is usually discovered when diagnosing for other problems.

If you have patent foramen ovale, it is a matter of concern. But, most people need not be treated for the condition.


Most people with the syndrome do not have any signs or symptoms. It is usually a hidden condition that does not produce any kind of symptom.


Although the cause for patent foramen ovale is unknown, researchers are of the opinion that genes play a role. Because a baby does not breathe when it is inside the womb of the mother, the lungs of the baby would not be functioning. Therefore, it is not required for the heart to pass blood to the lungs. Instead, a bypass route is used to circulate the blood from the body of the mother to the body of the baby. When this blood is passing through the umbilical cord, most of the blood travels through the foramen ovale into left atrium. From here, it passes through the left ventricle and is then circulated to the whole of baby’s body.
When the baby is born and the lungs of the baby begin working, this pattern changes. Instead of the umbilical cord, the oxygen-rich blood now comes in from the lungs. The normal route for blood circulation now comes into effect. When this change happens, the blood pressure of the heart makes the opening of the foramen flap to get closed. In most people, this occurs during infancy. In case this process does not happen, it causes patent foramen ovale.


The risk factors of patent foramen ovale are unknown, as the defect is congenital.


Although prevention is not possible, you could take certain precautionary measures like staying fit, following medications to prevent clotting of blood, etc.

How is it diagnosed?

Your cardiologist at Medanta may use one of the following tests to diagnose the existence of the syndrome:


How is it treated?

Although most people with the syndrome do not require treatment, your cardiologist at Medanta may recommend closure of the patent foramen ovale. This is required if low oxygen levels in your blood is attributed to patent foramen ovale.


  • Device closure

    In this method, the surgeon inserts a device that plugs in the hole. A slender tube called catheter is used for the purpose. Although rare, complications may arise in this procedure, due to tearing of heart or blood vessels or the catheter getting dislocated.

  • Surgery

    Your surgeon can close the hole by stitching up the flaps surgically. This may be performed either through a small incision or through robots.

When do I contact the doctor?

Because the condition hardly manifests itself in symptoms, it is quite difficult to consult a doctor at the right time. Periodic health check-ups are helpful in early diagnosis.

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