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Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

A PFO is an opening between the two upper chambers of the heart that did not close after birth. This communication is wide open during fetal life and may remain open for many years after birth. It may be confused with a small atrial septal defect, which is a small hole in the heart. A PFO does not produce any heart murmur. It is detected or found during a color flow Doppler echocardiogram. About half of pre-school children have a PFO. Between 15 to 34% of the adult population may still have a PFO. Complications associated with a PFO are very rare. A PFO may be associated with head migraines, paradoxical emboli (blue arrow in diagram), stroke, decompression (during deep sea scuba diving) and pulmonary edema (at very high altitudes). Virtually all patients with a PFO lead a normal life without any type of restrictions from sports. A follow-up appointment by a pediatric cardiologist is usually not necessary although we may recommend for you to call us back in 5-10 years, especially if the patient is planning to do deep sea scuba diving, has extreme obesity or if there is blood clotting problems in the patient or immediate family.

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