It is estimated a quarter of the population has a 'hole in the heart' - this procedure guides an implant through veins to close the opening without surgery.
A ‘hole in the heart’ refers to an area in 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:
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.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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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 ongoing 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.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After PFO closure, typically our consultants will want to see you after 6 weeks to see how you are doing.
On rare occasions, complications following PFO closure can occur. If you experience any of the symptoms discussed by your consultant – please call us straight away.
But everybody is different. If you have any questions or concerns, we're here to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
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