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What Happens To Untreated Patent Foramen Ovale & When To Go To Doctor & Is It Progressive?

In rare cases when the condition is left untreated, patent foramen ovale can result in hypoxemia due toa large amount of blood bypassing the lungs.1,2

Patent foramen ovalenormally does not produce symptoms however when you experience a stroke, you will need medical attention to check if there is an association with a PFO.3

Patent foramen ovaleis a risk factor for cryptogenic stroke and your doctor may suggest PFO closure because it can turn into progressive brain disease.4

What Happens To Untreated Patent Foramen Ovale?

What Happens To Untreated Patent Foramen Ovale?

A small patent foramen ovalein healthy patients is left untreated when they are asymptomatic. However, your healthcare provider may suggest if you require a patent foramen ovaleclosure with certain conditions such as unexplained strokes, transient ischemic attack, and migraines with aura.

In most cases, these neurological conditions can have different underlying reasons. So, your doctor will suggest diagnostic tests to determine if this is caused due to patent foramen ovale. Larger PFO’s left untreated to a series of complications

Stroke – In some instances, blood clots travel through a patent foramen ovale to the brain and result in a stroke. A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood in the brain, a medical emergency that needs prompt medical attention

Migraine With Aura- Several studies have shown that PFO has a strong link with migraine. Although migraine with aura is a benign disorder yet it can cause potential neurologic problems such as migrainous stroke and brain infarction.

Hypoxemia- Patent foramen ovale (PFO), an embryonic remnant of the fetal circulation causing a large amount of blood to bypass the lungs. This occurs when deoxygenated venous blood mixes with the oxygenated systemic blood increasing the right-to-left shunt, and therefore exacerbating hypoxemia. Hypoxemia often interferes with brain and heart function.1,2

When To Go To Doctor For Patent Foramen Ovale?

It is often advisable to seek immediate medical attention when you experience signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. The below are the signs of stroke and it is usually remembered with an abbreviation “BE FAST”

  • Balance- Stroke affects your cerebellum or brain stem- so the patients will experience a loss of balance
  • Eyes-problem with the vision
  • Face- partial face paralysis or weakness
  • Arms- weakness or partial paralysis
  • Speech – difficult with speaking and swallowing
  • Time – since the symptom started, you have problems one after the other.3

Is Patent Foramen Ovale Progressive?

Clinical studies have shown that patent foramen ovaleclosure was performed to prevent recurrent strokes and shunt related conditions. Some fascinating associations show that scuba drivers with PFO are more susceptible to decompression illness.

Studies show a higher incidence of migraine with aura in cryptogenic stroke (50%) having patent foramen ovale instead of 12% found in the general population. It also demonstrated that when the closure was done, it eventually reduces the risk of stroke and suppressed the migraine by 70%. The latest news in the Journal of the American Medical Association has stated that migraine is a progressive brain disorder.4

A patent foramen ovale is a congenital heart disease that allows a significant amount of blood to bypass the lungs between the left and right atrium. This occurs when the foramen ovale doesn’t close properly after birth.

It allows the oxygen-poor blue blood to mix with the oxygen-rich red blood and pushed through the body with less oxygen than required by the human system.


  1. Truong, Quynh A, et al. “Patent Foramen Ovale. Incidental Patent Foramen Ovale during Cardiothoracic Surgery: to Repair or Not to Repair?” Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990776/.
  2. “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. 
  3. Ellis, Mary Ellen. “Patent Foramen Ovale: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/patent-foramen-ovale. 
  4. Tobis, M Jonathan, and Babak Azarbal. “Does Patent Foramen Ovale Promote Cryptogenic Stroke and Migraine Headache?” Texas Heart Institute Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1336709/.

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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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