A patent foramen ovale (PFO), commonly referred to as a hole in the heart, is a small flap-like structure that should have closed after birth. In 25-30% of children and adults, the flap remains unsealed, allowing blood to cross over (shunt) from the right atrium directly into the left atrium, without being purified by the lungs.
When a volume of blood is shunted away before it can be processed, it passes, unfiltered out into the body. This can have damaging effects – many of which are not yet known or fully understood.
Of the percentage of people with a PFO, only a small number develop problems. These problems arise because the blood being shunted into the left atrium is low in oxygen, high in carbon dioxide, and it may have partially degraded blood cells, blood clots, other by-products or proteins present that are potentially harmful if recirculated in the body.
There is not yet a definitive reason as to why a PFO remains open in a portion of the population. It is also unknown why the vast majority of people with a PFO go on to live long and healthy lives, while others suffer from stroke, debilitating migraine, fatigue, poor oxygen perfusion and decompression illness.
Dr Ross Sharpe is leading the way in the diagnosis and treatment of PFO, starting with a simple, non-invasive test that can be done in the clinic in just 15 minutes to confirm the presence of a PFO.
Once diagnosed, Dr Sharpe can close your PFO through a short surgery, usually under twilight sedation, via a 20-minute procedure under twilight sedation with one night hospital admission.
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