A First in Springfield at
McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center
In 2008, Dr. Samuel Lau, a board certified cardiologist with Oregon Cardiology, performed the first percutaneous closure of a patent foramen ovale (PFO) to be done in Springfield. This procedure to close a congenital opening in the heart is a much less invasive way to treat this heart defect that may cause upwards of 100,000 strokes a year.
Although Dr. Lau has been performing PFO closures since 2004 (41 procedures to date), this was the first time such a procedure had been done in Springfield at the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.
If a PFO is suspected, several diagnostic-imaging evaluations can help determine what course of action is most suitable for a particular person’s treatment. Depending on the person’s age and other health factors, options for treatment may include a medicine regimen, open heart surgery, or the percutaneous closure (through a tiny puncture in the skin) approach done by cardiologists such as Dr. Lau.
Patient benefits of this minimally invasive procedure may include:
• Outpatient procedure
• Short recovery period
• Short term medicine therapy post closure
• High success rate, fewer risks
The foramen ovale is a small tunnel that runs through the top half of the wall that separates the left and right sides of the fetal heart. In the mother’s womb, all healthy fetuses have this tunnel, with a flap in the middle, so that oxygenated blood can by-pass the baby’s lungs (which, of course, are not functioning in the womb).
Typically, the foramen ovale closes shortly after birth, as the infant’s own lungs take over blood oxygenation. The flap closes permanently, separating blood flow between the two upper halves of the heart (the atria). For a variety of reasons, sometimes the flap does not close properly, and the tunnel remains open (patent). The prevalence of patent foramen ovale in the general population is about 20-25 percent.
Most people can live with a PFO with no problems, but for some people this persistent opening plays a role in some strokes, as well as other chronic symptoms such as shortness of breath and dizziness. For those people experiencing health concerns caused by a patent foramen ovale, the percutaneous closure provides an innovative treatment option, one that typically results in a less invasive procedure and a shorter recovery time.