With continued improvements in diagnosis and technology in cardiac catheterization, many patients that may have required surgery in the past can now be treated with minimally invasive procedures in the cardiac catheterization (cath) lab. The benefits of these procedures to patients include reduced risk and quicker recovery times.
One of the more commonly performed interventional procedures is called a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) or Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) closure. This is an innovative, non-surgical procedure intended to close patent foramen ovale or atrial septal defect. The patent foramen ovale is a small, flap – like opening between the right and left atria (upper chambers) of the heart. In most people, this flap closes at birth. However, approximately 15% of the time, this does not close at birth. Atrial septal defect is a congenital anomaly where the wall between the two atrial chambers remains open.
Most people with patent foramen ovale, or small atrial septal defects (ASD), do not know they have a PFO and have no symptoms or signs of a defect. Under certain circumstances, some symptoms that may become apparent include fatigue, shortness of breath, or cardiac rhythm abnormalities. Patients with large holes, especially atrial septal defects may have a heart murmur or an enlarged heart either previously undetected or never evaluated. Recently, these conditions have been identified as a contributing factor in causing strokes by allowing small blood clots to travel to the brain. Also, there is an association between migraine headaches and patent foramen ovale but the cause has not been established. Research is ongoing to evaluate the association between migraine headaches and patent foramen ovale. PFO or an ASD is diagnosed using echocardiography (ultrasound imaging).
For patients who require repair of this opening, a percutaneous interventional procedure called a PFO /ASD closure is performed. During this procedure, a small catheter is inserted into the vein of your leg and positioned into the heart. A small clamshell-shaped mesh device is advanced through this catheter to the site of the opening. The discs on either side of the device are deployed to close the flap/hole. The procedure may take between 30 and 60 minutes. Patients should expect to stay overnight before returning home. Recovery time is minimal following this procedure and patients can usually return to normal activities within a week. Blood thinners may be prescribed for a limited period of time after the procedure.
Harrison Medical Center has 10 cardiologists with 5 interventional cardiologists performing a full range of interventional procedures.