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?

Preparation

You are 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 with the physician.

You will be given a gown to wear. Blood samples will be collected and the nurse will place an IV line in your arm to administer medication later.

The procedure is performed in the cardiac catheterisation room.

The procedure

You take place on the examination 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 pricks 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.

Aftercare

If all checks are satisfactory, you may go home the following day. The procedure is generally estimated to require four 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:

  • air embolism
  • infection
  • migration of the umbrella-shaped device

Results

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

Centres and specialist areas

Cardiology

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Provenier Frank