What is it?

The patent foramen ovale is a leftover from the process of foetal heart development that is present in approximately 20% of the population. The goal of the PFO is to close this passage. This procedure is never urgent.

What is the process?


You will be admitted to the Cardiology Department. You need to be fasting: that means at least two hours for clear fluids (only water, tea and coffee), at least six hours for a light meal and dairy products and at least eight hours for a regular meal..Medication may be taken as agreed upon with the physician.

You will be given a surgical gown. The nurse will place an IV line in your arm to administer medication later.

The procedure will be performed in the Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory.

The procedure

You will be placed on the treatment table. Adhesive electrodes are placed to monitor your heart rhythm. You will be given antibiotics through the IV drip as protection against infection. The anaesthetist will prepare you for and then administer the anaesthesia. A tube will be placed in your throat to help you breathe. You will be covered with a sterile sheet. A probe will be inserted into the oesophagus to support the procedure.

Then, the physician will prick a vein in the groin to deliver the catheter up into the heart, through the PFO tunnel. After that, an umbrella-shaped device is put into place and the catheters are removed.


If all checks are satisfactory on the following day, you may go home. The procedure is generally estimated to require five days off work, but this depends on the degree of physical effort involved in the work.

What are the risks?

Complications are extremely rare but may have serious consequences. Some possible complications include:

  • pulmonary embolism
  • infection
  • displacement of the 'umbrella'


Once the device is covered by the patient’s own heart tissue, the tunnel is closed and blocked completely.

Centres and specialist areas


Latest publication date: 17/01/2022
Supervising author: Dr Provenier Frank