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PFO = Patent Foramen Ovale

| Anatomy, Arterial clots, Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), Diagnosis, Medical tests | 1 Comment »

Anatomy

Some people have a “hole in the heart”, called a “patent foramen ovale” (PFO). This is a connection between the right and the left chamber (atrium) of the heart. We are all born with it – the unborn needs this connection for proper blood circulation. In most people the hole closes in the first few weeks after birth. However, in up to 25 % of people it stays open, equally often in men and women. A PFO usually does not cause symptoms. However, when a person has an acute DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and a clot breaks off and travels with the blood stream, it may cause problems.

DVT and PE in the person without PFO

In the person who does not have a PFO, a clot that breaks off from a DVT travels with the blood stream through the main vein in the abdomen to the chambers of the right side of the heart (color blue in figure 1 and 2). From there, it travels into the lung vessels, where it gets lodged, causing a pulmonary embolism (figure 1).

Figure 1. DVT and PE, no PFO present (graphic design: Jeff Harrison, Wilmington, NC; ┬ęStephan Moll)

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