Stroke Risk Reduction

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

During development, prior to birth, a channel between the right and left sides of the heart called the foramen ovale, allows blood from veins to bypass the lungs. In about 25% of people, the foramen ovale does not close completely after birth. When the foramen ovale remains open, it is called a “patent foramen ovale” or a PFO. Typically, a PFO causes no problems. However, in some cases, it can allow a small amount of blood to pass from the right side of the heart to the left side of the heart.1

Download PFO treatment guide to learn more about patent foramen ovale (PFO) treatment options to reduce stroke risk.


The diagram below shows an open foramen ovale before birth, a closed foramen ovale after birth, and a patent foramen ovale after birth.

FIGURE 1:
PRIOR TO BIRTH
 

Foramen Ovale

FIGURE 2:
POST BIRTH NATURAL SEALING OF THE FORAMEN OVALE

FIGURE 3:
FORAMEN OVALE REMAINS OPEN, CREATING PFO

Patent Foramen Ovale

STROKE OVERVIEW

Strokes are caused by a sudden interruption in blood flow to a part of the brain or bleeding within the brain tissue. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die, causing brain damage. When brain cells die during a stroke, the function controlled by that part of the brain, like speech or movement, may be impaired.

There are two major types of stroke: hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when damaged blood vessels in the brain allow bleeding into the brain tissue resulting in swelling and pressure that damages the brain. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage develops in a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain.
 

Embolic Stroke of Unknown Cause

An embolic stroke of unknown cause is an ischemic stroke for which no definite cause is found. It is estimated that 25% - 30% of ischemic strokes are of unknown cause.

One possible factor that may have contributed to a stroke of unknown cause is the presence of a patent foramen ovale.

HOW DOES
A PFO AFFECT STROKE RISK?

Blood clots in veins can develop for various reasons and travel to the right side of the heart. Normally, they are then pumped to the lungs, which act as a filter. However, a PFO can allow those clots to bypass the lungs and cross to the left side of the heart. From there, they can be pumped to the brain, causing a stroke.1

People who have a PFO and have had an embolic stroke of unknown cause may be at an increased risk for having a second stroke. In some people, a second stroke can be prevented by having the PFO closed.2

PFO TREATMENT

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a patent foramen ovale (PFO), it’s important to seek timely treatment since the condition increases the risk for stroke. Your doctor will discuss the best treatment option for you. Learn about treatment options to reduce stroke risk.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

MAT-2304811 v1.0 | Item approved for U.S. use only.

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STEP 1

To implant the device, your doctor inserts a narrow tube into a vein in your upper leg.

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