How We're Preventing
Migraine & Stroke
Avista’s cardiac cath lab team is one of the few in Boulder County that performs a minimally invasive procedure to close a hole in the heart, Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) or Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). Left untreated, this condition can lead to stroke or migraine. Patients generally are discharged within 23 hours of this procedure, which has been highly successful.
What is a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)?
A foramen ovale allows blood to go around the lungs. A baby's lungs are not used when it grows in the womb, so the hole does not cause problems in an unborn infant.
The opening is supposed to close soon after birth, but sometimes it does not. In about 1 out of 4 people, the opening never closes. If it does not close, it is called a patent foramen ovale (PFO).
The cause of a PFO is unknown. There are no known risk factors.
An echocardiogram can be done to diagnose a PFO. If the PFO is not easily seen, a cardiologist can perform a "bubble test." Saline solution (salt water) is injected into the body as the cardiologist watches the heart on an ultrasound (echocardiogram) monitor. If a PFO exists, tiny air bubbles will be seen moving from the right to left side of the heart. Read more about PFO.
What is Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)?
Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a heart defect that is present at birth (congenital).
While the baby is in the womb, there is normally an opening between the upper chambers of the heart (atria) to allow blood to flow around the lungs. This opening usually closes around the time when the baby is born. If the opening does not close, the hole is called an atrial septal defect, or ASD.
If the opening does not close, the hole is called an ASD and blood continues to flow between the two heart chambers. This is called a shunt. Pressure in the lungs may build up. Over time, there will be less oxygen in the blood that goes to the body.
Small atrial septal defects often cause very few problems and may be discovered much later in life. Many problems can occur if the opening is large, or there is more than one opening.
ASD is not very common.
A person with no other heart defect, or a small defect (less than 5 millimeters) may not have symptoms, or the symptoms may not occur until middle age or later.
Symptoms that do occur may begin at any time after birth through childhood, and can include:
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Frequent respiratory infections in children
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations) in adults
- Shortness of breath with activity