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How Common Is Patent Foramen Ovale Or Is It A Rare Disease & Is There A Surgery For PFO?

The prevalence of patent foramen ovale is about 25 percent in the general population but this increases to 40-50% in patients having a stroke due to an unknown cause.1

Patent foramen ovale is one of the common conditions but some symptoms such as baby developing a bluish skin tone or crying or straining during a bowel movement are noticed in rare cases.2

Your cardiologist may suggest PFO repair which is either performed in combination with open-heart surgery or perform a cardiac catheter procedure.3,4

How Common Is Patent Foramen Ovale Or Is It A Rare Disease?

How Common Is Patent Foramen Ovale Or Is It A Rare Disease?

Patent Foramen ovale is one of the most common conditions that occur in one out of 4 people worldwide. Statistics show that PFO exists in about 25 percent of the normal population however most individuals with this condition never know it until they face a complication.1

Most cases of PFO’s are asymptomatic. A patent foramen ovale is similar in position to atrial septal defect (ASD), but it is less significant in size and rarely causes problems on its own, and does not produce any signs and symptoms. If you don’t have any other cardiovascular conditions such as blood clots, migraine, or stroke, treatment for patent foramen ovale is unnecessary.

The condition is more common in younger adults and newborns who have congenital heart defects although it occurs in people of all ages. But the size of the patent foramen ovalevaries from individual to individual. A healthcare provider may later discover the hole during a test or diagnosis for another health problem.2

Is There A Surgery For Patent Foramen Ovale?

Most people with a patent foramen ovale don’t require treatment if you have no risk factors for stroke or any history of traveling blood clots but your doctor may recommend you for a procedure due to the below reasons

  • When the patients experience low-blood oxygen levels
  • Prevent migraines with aura
  • Prevent recurrent stroke despite medical therapy

Treatment and choice of treatment vary depending on the size of the PFO’s. In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest antiplatelet medicines such as aspirin or anticoagulant medicines such as warfarin to help prevent blood clots.

Larger PFO’s are typically treated through surgeries such as transcatheter repair or heart surgery. Surgical closure is an alternate option for patients who are unqualified for percutaneous closure Transcatheter procedures are non-invasive and complications are very rare. The rate of any adverse outcome of recurrent stroke was very much reduced. Nevertheless, there are risk factors due to age, the size of the defect, and other health problems. Risks involve

  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Inappropriate positioning of the device resulting in the device becoming unattached and traveling in the blood vessel
  • Damages in the veins and spots around the heart
  • Uncontrolled bleeding and infection.3,4

But your healthcare provider may suggest what to expect before and after the procedure.

A patent foramen ovale repair is a procedure to close or seal the opening between the major pulmonary arteries to regulate the flow of blood. To better under the process, it is often important to know how the heart works.

It is a well-known fact that your heart is the size of your fist that transports blood across all the blood tissues. The heart is composed of 4 chambers that receive the blood, pumps to the ventricle, and then to the lungs until it pumps to the body. The fetus in the mother’s womb has a small opening called the foramen ovale that closes soon after birth. However, when it remains open, it leaks between the 2 atria.


  1. “Patent Foramen Ovale: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001113.htm
  2. “Patent Foramen Ovale (Concept Id: C0016522) – MedGen – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/medgen/8891
  3. “Patent Foramen Ovale.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/patent-foramen-ovale/symptoms-causes/syc-20353487.
  4. “Patent Foramen Ovule (PFO) Closure Surgery: What is patent foramen ovale transcatheter repair? UPMC in South Central Pa.” UPMC, https://www.upmc.com/services/south-central-pa/heart-vascular/heart/cardiovascular-surgery/treatments-procedures/pfo.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 17, 2023

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