DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a hole in the heart that didn't close the way it should after birth.
During fetal development, a small flap-like opening — the foramen ovale (foh-RAY-mun oh-VAY-lee) — is usually present between the right and left upper chambers of the heart. It normally closes during infancy. When the foramen ovale doesn't close, it's called a patent foramen ovale.
Although it's common to have a patent formen ovale, most people with the condition never know they have it. A patent foramen ovale is often discovered during tests for other problems. Learning that you have a patent foramen ovale is understandably worrisome, but most people never need treatment for this disorder.
- Kutty S, et al. Patent foramen ovale. The known and the to be known. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2012;59:1665.
- McPhee SJ, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. 51st ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3671. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 15, 2012.
- Bucholz S, et al. Diagnosis and management of patent foramen ovale. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2012;88:217.
- Hara H, et al. Patent foramen ovale. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 14, 2012.
- Furie KL, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke or transient ischemic attack. Stroke. 2010;42:227. Accessed Aug. 12, 2012.
- Furlan AJ, et al. Closure or medical therapy for cryptogenic stroke with patent foramen ovale. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366:991.