Posts Tagged ‘pfo and migraine’

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is the new generation hole in the heart for  21st century  cardiologist. Present in about 20% of population  , would correspond to 140 crore  “man holes”  as  on  2012   in this planet. PFOs are embryological remnants across the inter atrial septum.

These minute  holes measuring few mm  are largely a  benign finding .In the recent  decades , it is being increasingly debated these holes  may  not  be innocent after all .Extensive  use of echocardiography in recent times   has contributed to  the awareness  as well as anxiety.

Evidence  is mounting  linking PFO to

  • Migraine,
  • Stroke and
  • Peripheral embolism.

While the above   observation may be true  ,  the  fact that >100 crore people have this entity   , raises  a serious question ,  as labeling  all of  them as heart disease will create chaos among the already health obsessed   population .

So , the main purpose should be ,  to identify the high risk subsets* of PFO population .(This will be a <5 %  at the most). People with PFO may  carry  a mental  stigma because it is referred to as a hole in  the heart by the  general  public .For many  the sense of living with a hole in heart is often more damaging than the hole itself ! (Incidentally , many develop  migraine only after reporting about this hole !)In a strict sense  PFO  is not a hole , rather  it is a communication it may be tunnel  or  slit like .It is argued physician should avoid calling PFO as a hole .

*What is a significant PFO ?

  • Large PFOs >5mm
  • PFOs that shunt blood
  • PFOs with septal aneurysms
  • PFOs with documented stroke or embolism
  • PFOs with atrial chiary network
  • PFO in  persons with systemic pro-coagulant states (Except probably in  pregnancy )

Final message 

PFO is a common residual congenital  atrial septal  anomaly . Usually  benign  . One can  live with it perfect harmony. Only occasional patients  are  at risk.

So the prime job of cardiologists is to not diagnose and create panic about  this entity. rather reassure  them (Is it better do not reveal to them if it is found incidentally ? Patient empowerment group would call  this a  foul !  I do not support blind empowerment  )

At the same time our main  aim is to identify the  high  risk subsets who are prone for events.

Closure of   PFO with device is required in a fraction . (*By the way ,  if   PFO is really dangerous ,  why It is never an indication for surgical closure ?  )


Your  search for best information  on PFO  would end here .  Here is  land mark   article  in JACC  by  Hara   also contributed by  Renu Virmani . A US  Japan  combines initiative  : A must read by every cardiologists



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