What is a PFO?

A PFO is simply a hole between the two upper heart chambers. In some cases, the hole can lead to complications, including stroke.  Before a baby is born, a natural hole exists between the two upper heart chambers, which usually closes before birth, and in some cases, a few days or even months after birth. If it does not close naturally, a hole is left, which for many people causes no problems – but in some cases, it is believed to lead to stroke, particularly if no other cause can be found. It may be necessary to close the hole, particularly if you have already suffered a stroke with an undetermined cause.

Advanced Treatment for a PFO at San Diego Cardiac Center

A specialized, FDA-approved device can be used to close a hole in the heart, called an ASO, or “Amplatzer Septal Occluder.” The name comes from Kurt Amplatz, an Austrian medical device inventor who created this innovative device. “Septal” refers to the wall between the two heart chambers, and “occlude” means blocking a flow, often of light, but in this case, blood. This device can be placed to close the hole for the long term without open-heart surgery, a significant advance in heart medicine.

Stroke and PFO

A stroke comes about if the blood supply to the brain is dramatically reduced or blocked.

The brain, without the nourishment the blood provides, will begin to die, which often leads to disability or loss of life.

One type of stroke is called a “cryptogenic” stroke, which is a designation given to a stroke for which no medical cause can be found. Clinical studies have revealed that almost 50 percent of the people who suffer this type of stroke had a PFO – a hole between the two upper heart chambers.

Closing the PFO, at one time, required open-heart surgery. A more recently developed approach allows our heart specialists to close the hole with a minimally invasive procedure.

ASO Implantation: Close a Hole in the Heart – Without Open-Heart Surgery

An ASO is a catheter-based device that can be implanted to halt the blood flow between the two heart chambers. It is made of two discs that are linked together by a polyester thread to allow the device to collapse and fit through a narrow catheter. An access point is created in a blood vessel, and with real-time visual image guidance, is threaded through the vessel until it reaches the hole (PFO). Once in place, it is released and opens, plugging the hole. The procedure takes about one to two hours to complete. You will be under an anesthetic and will not feel any pain during the procedure.

Your Recovery: What to Expect?

The recovery from this advanced procedure is remarkably swift. Most people are discharged within 24 hours. You will be prescribed certain medications to take during your recovery. During healing, you will need to avoid all strenuous activities until given the okay by our heart doctor to resume exercise or sports, which is typically in about four weeks. 

Why Choose San Diego Cardiac Center?

San Diego Cardiac Center has four decades serving patients in a full range of cardiac services. Our team of specialists is at the forefront of the latest advances in non-invasive or less invasive cardiac treatments. We are consistently involved in clinical research, allowing our patients to have access to the latest improvements and discoveries in cardiac care and frequently offer newer, less invasive treatments before any other clinic in the San Diego area.

Our specialists at San Diego Cardiac Center offer the highest level of expertise, covering the entire spectrum of advanced cardiac care. We adopt innovative therapies for our patients, usually ahead of the curve. If you have a PFO and your doctor is concerned, we invite you to meet with our team of compassionate heart specialists to discuss your options.

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