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J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 1992 May-Jun;5(3):259-70.

Patent foramen ovale: a nonfunctional embryological remnant or a potential cause of significant pathology?

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Division of Cardiovascular Disease, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA.


A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is an embryological remnant found in 27% of adults. It is a potential right-to-left intracardiac shunt. Shunting may be the result of reversal in the interatrial pressure gradient or abnormal streaming of blood in the right atrium. The pathologic consequences of right-to-left shunting include hypoxemia and paradoxical embolism. PFO may exacerbate preexisting hypoxemia or be its primary cause. Paradoxical embolism through a PFO is well documented. Its role in cryptogenic stroke remains controversial. A PFO may be detected by both invasive and noninvasive techniques. Contrast transesophageal echocardiography with provocative maneuvers is the diagnostic method of choice allowing visualization of the shunt. Patients with cryptogenic stroke should be screened for a PFO. If detected, noninvasive studies for deep vein thrombosis are recommended. Treatment must be tailored to the presentation. Surgical or transcatheter closure is recommended for hypoxemia. Prevention of venous embolism (air or thrombus) with or without closure of the PFO is recommended for paradoxical embolism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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