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Patent foramen ovale

Hidehiko Hara, MD
Section Editor
Heidi M Connolly, MD, FASE
Deputy Editor
Susan B Yeon, MD, JD, FACC


Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a congenital cardiac lesion that frequently persists into adulthood [1-3]. Although most patients with a PFO are asymptomatic, a variety of clinical manifestations may be associated with PFO, most importantly cryptogenic stroke. (See 'Clinical manifestations' below.)

Issues related to the prevalence, anatomy, associations with other defects, clinical manifestations, and detection of PFO will be reviewed here. Clinical manifestations of atrial septal defects, including PFO, and the indications for and techniques of closure of a PFO are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of atrial septal defects in adults" and "Atrial septal abnormalities (PFO, ASD, and ASA) and risk of cerebral emboli in adults" and "Treatment of atrial septal abnormalities (PFO, ASD, and ASA) for prevention of stroke in adults" and "Classification of atrial septal defects (ASDs), and clinical features and diagnosis of isolated ASDs in children" and "Management and outcome of isolated atrial septal defects in children".)


Patent foramen ovale (PFO) was found in 25 to 30 percent of individuals in an autopsy study and in a community-based transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) study [4,5].

The following findings were noted in the autopsy study of 965 normal hearts [4]:

Probe-patent PFO was present in 27 percent; the prevalence and size were similar in males and females.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 02, 2016.
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