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Can You Die From Patent Foramen Ovale & How Does It Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Patent foramen ovale can raise the risk of stroke that can damage other organs such as the heart or the kidneys and third leading cause of death in the United States.1

When a person has a patent foramen ovale the flow is not normal and there is only a little flow of blood between the chambers of the heart.2

There is no known cause for patent foramen ovale but greater pressure or strain during bowel movements, coughing or sneezing can trigger the condition.3

Can You Die From Patent Foramen Ovale & How Does PFO Affect The Body?

Can You Die From Patent Foramen Ovale & How Does PFO Affect The Body?

PFO And Stroke – Stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when there is a traveling blood clot in the brain and the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This may occur when the clot becomes trapped in one of the major arteries flowing through the brain. These are medical emergencies and immediate clinical treatment is required.

It is a major complication of PFO so people with patent foramen ovale have an increased risk of experiencing stroke than the people who don’t. Patients younger than age 55 who have a stroke due to an unknown cause may likely to have PFO and have a deep vein thrombosis.1

Stroke may produce the following symptoms

  • numbness in limbs, most likely on the face, arm, or leg especially on one side of the heart.
  • confusion or unresponsiveness
  • Sudden acute headache. typically accompanied by some of the additional symptoms
  • Sudden unsteadiness, loss of balance or management, or difficulty in walking

Migraine And Vascular Headache. One of the common types of vascular headache causes severe pain in the head. Migraine has a strong association with patent foramen ovale and some of the factors that trigger this condition are stress, hormones, activation of the autonomic nervous system, and certain illnesses. Migraine causes the below
excruciating pain on one side of the brain

  • vision problems
  • vomiting and nausea
  • pain increasing during physical movements
  • Migraine with aura leads to stroke, non-fatal stroke can leave you severely debilitated and larger stroke can cause widespread damage leading to sudden death.2

What Triggers Patent Foramen Ovale?

It is not known why this opening is not closed on its own in some people, but several studies demonstrate that genetics and heredity play a vital role in triggering this condition. The condition has a relationship with genetic mutation meaning it runs in families. Though, there is no convincing data to prove this theory. The flap opens when there is increased pressure in the right and left atria of the heart. Some of the ways to lower the risk of patent foramen ovale and to prevent recurrent strokes include

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control with the right medicines’
  • Regular physical exercises and preventing obesity
  • Avoid smoking
  • Drinking alcohol at limited levels

Most transient ischemic stroke occurs in people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, and other known causes that put a high risk of heart attack and stroke.3

The term patent in patent foramen ovale means open which indicates there is a hole in the heart and the foramen ovale remains open after birth. The role of the foramen ovale is to allow the flow of blood during fetal development. Normally the infants start using their lungs for breathing which puts pressure on the heart.

A stroke may also be more likely in individuals with a patent foramen ovale if they also have an atrial septal aneurysm.


  1. “Patent Foramen Ovale: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001113.htm
  2. Moses, Kayla L, et al. “Effect of Body Position and Oxygen Tension on Foramen Ovale Recruitment.” American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, American Physiological Society, 1 Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4281682/.
  3. Amarenco, P. “Patent Foramen Ovale and the Risk of Stroke: Smoking Gun Guilty by Association?” Heart (British Cardiac Society), Copyright 2005 by Heart, Apr. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1768821/.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2022

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