New Heart Device Closes Holes In The Heart That Can Cause Strokes 07/15/2005 Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center is one of only a few healthcare providers in the state to offer this breakthrough technology
Imagine being 41 years old with a promising career, an upcoming wedding and suddenly having a stroke. That is just what happened to Tammy Rester of Baton Rouge. After a series of tests, doctors determined the stroke had been caused by a tiny hole in her heart known as a patent foramen ovale or PFO.
A foramen ovale is a small opening located in the atrial septum that is used during fetal circulation to speed the travel of blood through the heart, allowing oxygen-rich blood to travel freely when the baby is still in the womb. Normally the hole closes at birth, but if it does not it is called a PFO and the hole can lead to pressure in the heart. A clot or particles may travel through the PFO and then out of the heart and to the brain, potentially causing a stroke.
A relatively new device is now being used at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) to close tiny holes between the chambers of the heart. PFOs have been linked to stokes in patients as young as 20 years of age. But through a minimally invasive procedure, performed in a heart cathetertization lab, PFOs can be closed, reducing the future risk for stroke to less than one percent.
Andrew Rees, M.D., a cardiologist with Louisiana Cardiology Associates, performed the PFO closure on Rester at OLOL and says that she now has a less than one percent chance of a future stroke.
Candidates for a PFO procedure include someone who’s had a stroke before age 55, who’s taken anti-coagulant drugs with no success, and whose doctors can’t find a traditional cause for the stroke.
“If by diagnosis of exclusion a Patent Foramen Ovale is identified and thought to be the cause of the stroke, then that is one of the primary things that makes someone a candidate,” explained Dr. Rees.
On a side note, research released in June of this year suggests that some people suffering with migraines could have PFOs and may actually be suffering from minor strokes (causing the migraine pain). More research will have to be done before PFO closures could be an approved treatment option for migraines.
Rester says for her the decision to have the surgery was easy. “I think the idea of living my life waiting to see if I had another stroke was scarier.”