Well, here’s the verdict, this morning i got a call from my doctor, I have a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) or a hole in my heart. It is a hole between the atria of the heart, everyone is born with this, but it closes entirely for the majority of people. For some of us, it does not, a little opening stays open. And clots can go from one atrium of the heart to the other and can then go to the brain, where they can cause strokes.
Exactly what happened to me! I did have a stroke, although it was so small that I had no symptoms and never knew I had it till the blasted MRI!
So I called my stepdad, he is a cardio-thoracic surgeon, he works at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City. He said not to worry, it’s an easy fix, he’s done a few himself. The surgery to repair the PFO is done through a catheter. He will talk to the cardiologists at Columbia and call me back tomorrow.
So here we are folks. I’m going to my Zumba class, heck, I’ve had this hole in my heart all my life, so doing Zumba isn’t going to make anything worse! A hole in my heart… hmmmm… how did I know I always had it! No, seriously, I’m deep breathing and waiting for the news from my stepdad.
Never do know what life has in store for you!
What is Foramen Ovale?
The foramen ovale is a small hole located in the septum (wall) between the two upper (atrial) chambers of the heart.
The foramen ovale is used during fetal circulation to speed up the travel of blood through the heart. When in the womb, a baby does not use its own lungs for oxygen-rich blood; it relies on the mother to provide oxygen rich blood from the placenta through the umbilical cord to the fetus. Therefore, blood can travel from the veins to the right side of the baby’s heart and cross to the left side of the heart through the foramen ovale and skip the trip to the baby’s lungs.
What is a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)?
Normally the foramen ovale closes at birth when increased blood pressure on the left side of the heart forces the opening to close.
If the atrial septum does not close properly, it is called a patent foramen ovale. This type of defect generally works like a flap valve, only opening during certain conditions when there is more pressure inside the chest. This increased pressure occurs when people strain while having a bowel movement, cough, or sneeze.
If the pressure is great enough, blood may travel from the right atrium to the left atrium. If there is a clot or particles in the blood traveling in the right side of the heart, it can cross the PFO, enter the left atrium, and travel out of the heart and to the brain (causing a stroke) or into a coronary artery (causing a heart attack).
How Common is Patent Foramen Ovale?
PFO is present is up to 25 percent in the general population. Young adults (less than age 55) who have stroke of unknown cause (cryptogenic stroke), are more likely to have a PFO. In fact young adults who have had a cryptogenic stroke are more likely to have both a PFO and a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
A PFO can be associated with atrial septal aneurysm, which is characterized by excessive mobility of the atrial septum.