We've probably all felt like we had our heart broken at some point in our lives, but the fact is we are all born with a hole in our heart, in 80% of the population it closes up on it's own. KSFY was invited into the Avera Heart Hospital's Cath Lab to watch as a team of specialists repaired a patient's heart without opening their chest.
Vascular Specialist Dr. Michael Bacharach with North Central Heart is repairing a congenital heart defect for one of his patient's. It's commonly referred to as PFO.
Dr. Bacharach says, "Patent Foramen Valley or Ovale is the hole or space between the 2 upper chambers of the heart that allows blood to flow from right to left during fetal life. It provides a bypass or short cut for the blood to flow during the time the baby is developing inside the mom because they don't have access to air so there is no reason for the blood to flow to the developing lungs."
Shortly after we are born or within the first 2 years of life, that patent foramen valley, or hole typically closes. That flap grows shuts, but for 20% of the population that doesn't happen and doctors can't say for sure why that is.
Dr. Bacharach says, "For most patients, the patent foramen valley doesn't cause a problem. It's only a small number that get into trouble and they could have an embolic phenomenon, a clot or plaque goes across the hole which can cause a stroke or blockage somewhere else in the body. We insert a little disk like device that blocks that hole. It sounds corny but when you think of a hamburger and the bun on each side what's important is not the size of the bun but the hamburger because that's what closes the hole."
Dr. Bacharach says technology has come a long way in sealing this opening in the atrium. They used to have to do open heart surgery, but now it's done in the cath lab with a small tube and wire inserted in the leg. Imaging devices, such as ultra sound, show immediately if the hole has been sealed. It's less invasive and when the patient wakes up they will be hole hearted instead of having a hole in their heart.
Most patients don't realize they have this condition until they have a stroke or mini-stroke and typically are between the ages of 20 and 40 but again that is a small percentage of the 20% who have PFOs.