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What Is The Difference Between PFO And PDA & PFO And VSD?

PDA and PFO are both defects of the circulatory system occurring post birth due to failure in the closure of the heart.1

The cause of patent foramen ovale is due to genetic causes however the cause of PDA still remains unknown.2

PFO and VSD are associated with congenital heart problems but clinical studies have shown that PFO is more common when compared to VSD. 3, 4

What Is The Difference Between PFO And PDA?

When the baby is in the mother’s womb, they are generally dependent on the mother’s blood supply. The fetus cannot oxygenate its blood hence their pulmonary vascular resistance is very high eventually resulting in reduced blood flow in the lungs. This causes bouts of cough, sneezing, or chronic fatigue. This is due to the mixing of oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood causing a cause a right-to-left shunt.1

Symptoms Of PFO: In the majority of cases, PFO causes no symptoms and most people with a patent foramen ovale don’t know they have it.  But in some adults, they cause severe migraine headaches. Some of the common symptoms of PFO include

  • The patient experiencing numbness on one side of their body also referred to as a one-sided weakness
  • Speech becomes slurry
  • No free movements of the limbs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Chronic Fatigue

Symptoms Of PDA: With PDA the extra blood gets pumped from the aorta to other major pulmonary arteries making the heart works harder so eventually, lungs start to face congestion. During fetal development, the ductus arteriosus shunts blood away from high-pressure oxygenated blood to low pressure de-oxygenated blood.

A larger PDA during infancy results in poor eating and low weight gain. The common symptoms of PDA include

  • A strong, forceful, and irregular heart rhythm
  • Cyanosis a bluish tint in the skin, nails, and lips.
  • Rapid/ shortness of breath
  • Poor growth in childhood.

Both conditions are treated using surgical methods to help proper transmission of blood all across the heart chambers.2

What Is The Difference Between PFO And VSD?

As already stated, septal defects are small holes in the heart occurring between the heart chambers. When it occurs at the upper heart chambers the condition is called Arterial Septal Defect (ASD) however when it arises between the main pumping chamber, is called a ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).

Both PFO and VSD are congenital heart disorders in infants but in rare cases, it is not detected until childhood.  PFO has no clinical importance as it doesn’t show any symptoms.

Ventricular Septal Defect results in the abnormal flow of blood resulting in breathlessness, tiredness, and ankle swelling. The condition is diagnosed using echocardiography or a cardiac MRI study to measure the pressure in heart chambers.

VSD needs treatment to avoid heart failures in the future. When the hole is large, and the patient-facing severe chest congestion or shortness of breath immediate closure can be recommended.3,4

Patent Foramen Ovale is a congenital cardiovascular condition that persists in adulthood and is noticed in more than 25% of the population. PFO has an increased association with ischemic stroke. It is a hole between the upper chamber usually the left and right atria of the heart during fetal development.

PFO is an important part of the fetal circulatory system before birth and should be closed immediately after birth when the baby starts to use the lungs to breathe. About one out of 4 people are identified with this condition because PFO remains open in infants born with congenital heart conditions.


  1. Storm, Michael. “PDA, PFO and Fetal Circulation.” Storm Anesthesia – PDA, PFO and Fetal Circulation, stormanesthesia.com/anesthesia-material/miscellaneous-articles/71-pda-pfo-and-fetal-circulation.
  2. “Congenital Heart Disease Treatments Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) & Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO).” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/16892-congenital-heart-disease-treatments.
  3. “Patent Foramen Ovale/Atrial Septal Defect/Ventricular Septal Defect Closure.” The Cardiology Advisor, 20 Jan. 2019, www.thecardiologyadvisor.com/home/decision-support-in-medicine/cardiology/patent-foramen-ovale-atrial-septal-defect-ventricular-septal-defect-closure/.
  4. Cruz-González, Ignacio, et al. “Patent Foramen Ovale: Current State of the Art.” Revista Española De Cardiología (English Edition) Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) & Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) and Arterial Septal Defect (ASD), Elsevier, 1 July 2008, www.revespcardiol.org/en-patent-foramen-ovale-current-state-articulo-13124413.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 5, 2020

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