Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) Closure
A patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure is a procedure to close a small hole in the heart that exists during fetal development to promote blood flow and, in the majority of cases, either closes on its own during infancy or remains open but never causes problems. A small flap-like opening, the foramen ovale is located in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart. In about one out of four people, the hole does not close on its own, but fewer than 1 percent of people ever need to have a PFO closed.
Closure may be recommended if the PFO is suspected to be causing otherwise unexplained strokes, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, or “mini strokes”), or embolisms (bloodstream blockages). Closure involves a small incision usually made in the inner thigh area, through which a catheter holding a closure device is inserted into a large vein and slowly guided into the heart. Once the catheter reaches the PFO, the device is released and allowed to expand into the intended shape necessary to seal the hole. The catheter is then removed, but the closure device remains as a permanent implant. The procedure typically is followed by a chest X-ray and/or an echocardiogram to confirm that the device is properly positioned.
The UAB Congenital Heart Disease Program offers the most advanced care for structural heart disease, which often requires lifetime monitoring and care. Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiovascular anesthesiologists, and maternal/fetal medicine specialists are uniquely qualified to treat patients before birth and into adulthood. In addition to seeing patients at the UAB Women & Infants Center and The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, UAB Medicine’s congenital heart disease specialists also see patients at North Alabama Children's Specialists in Huntsville and Physicians to Children/Central Alabama Children's Specialists in Montgomery.
Our modern ultrasound equipment allows many heart defects to be diagnosed before a child is born. Screening exams performed at 18-20 weeks are recommended for expectant mothers (or fathers) known to have congenital heart disease. If a defect is discovered, prenatal treatment and planning for delivery and postnatal treatment can be undertaken.
Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood, but more than 60% stop seeing a cardiologist once they turn 18. UAB’s Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is designed to prevent that gap in care. As the only adult congenital heart disease program in the state and one of only a handful in the country, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that smaller problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.
Dr. Cribbs on Business Break
More than 20,000 adults enter the Adult Congenital Heart Disease population every year, but 60% are lost to follow-up care.
Care of Adults with Congenital Heart Disease
Individuals born with congenital heart disease are now thriving into adulthood, but need lifelong follow-up care from sub-specialty experts.
Adult Congenital Heart Disease Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatments
Some people are born with a defect or malformation in their heart or blood vessels, and this is called Congenital Heart Disease. UAB Cardiologist Edward Colvin, MD, talks to Daytime Alabama on WVTM-TV, Channel 13, in Birmingham, Ala., about the types of congenital heart disease and what adults with this disease should look for when choosing a doctor.
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