Hole in the heart (PFO) closure

Minimally invasive closure of a ‘hole in the heart’ is available at Spire Shawfair Park. A ‘hole in the heart’ refers to an area in the the septum between the left and right atria which is open in all individuals before birth.

For most people this hole closes shortly after birth but for approximately 25% of the population the opening doesn’t close. For most it goes undetected, mainly due to the minimal symptoms caused by the condition. However, for some they may notice symptoms such as:

  • Tiredness / lethargy
  • Arrythmias
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • Usually a heart murmur

The condition is diagnosed with an echocardiogram which also identifies the location of the hole.

An implant is guided up to the affected area through a small incision in the groin. This implant is then released, effectively closing the hole. Tissue will eventually grow into and around the implant’s fabric and metal framework, creating a permanent seal.

This minimally invasive technique offers several advantages over current treatment options of either medications (such as anticoagulants) or open-heart surgery. The new technique reduces risks associated with open surgery and prevents an on-going need for medications. The condition isn’t always serious but can present higher risks in some patient groups. For instance, in older patients there is increasing likelihood of irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure and heart failure.

Recent studies have also shown that the risk of suffering an embolic stroke may be increased for people who are affected with this abnormality.



For divers there is also preliminary research to suggest they could be at increased risk. The reason is that depending on the depth and duration of a dive, some divers will produce air bubbles in their venous system which would usually be filtered out through the lungs. It is thought that if a hole in the heart is present these divers may pass air bubbles directly from one atria to the other where they could cause symptoms. It is important to remember that as of yet, there is no direct evidence. 


Find a treatment, test or scan available at:


Find a consultant

Use one or more of the options below to search for a consultant and link through to view their Spire profile.


Let us help you

fill out this form and we will get back to you:

Please select a hospital

We can call you

Please enter your details below and we will call you back.

What is the aim of your enquiry?

Please select a hospital

If we are unable to reach you by phone, please include your email address so that we can get in touch...

© Spire Healthcare Group plc (2016)