At Georgia Heart Institute, we have a specialized care team, including doctors specializing in structural heart disorders, a dedicated patient navigator and a program coordinator, all with specific expertise in helping patients with structural heart issues, like ASD and PFO, receive the right diagnosis and treatment.

Our Structural Heart Program offers innovative treatment – including minimally invasive options – and the highest level of care for congenital abnormalities of the heart.

What are ASD and PFO?

There are two types of holes in the heart – atrial septal defect (ASD) and patent foramen ovale (PFO). Both are holes in the wall tissue between the left and right upper chambers of the heart, called the septum.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

Individuals born with ASD have a genetic abnormality causing the septal tissue to incorrectly form between the heart’s two chambers. ASD holes can vary in size and severity of abnormal blood flow, related to the size of the hole.

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

The foramen ovale is a hole between the two chambers of every growing baby’s heart. The hole has a purpose – to allow blood to bypass the lungs while the baby is in utero and the lungs aren’t functioning. In this way, blood arrives safely to the heart already oxygenated by the placenta. The foramen ovale completely seals shut in approximately 75 percent of babies within several months after birth. When it doesn’t close completely or can reopen in certain circumstances, it’s called a PFO.

What are the symptoms and risks of ASD and PFO?

Some people will show no signs of having a hole in their heart. Others may experience symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life, including:

  • fatigue
  • heart murmur
  • heart palpitations
  • migraine headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • swollen legs, feet or abdomen
  • stroke

Many strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain that cut off important oxygen and blood flow. In people with PFOs, small blood clots that would normally be absorbed by the lungs can flow through the hole, carrying it out into the body. Even very small clots that reach the brain can lead to a stroke. In fact, the American Stroke Association estimates that 100,000 Americans suffer a PFO-related stroke each year.

Who should consider an ASD or PFO closure?

In many cases, a hole in the heart requires no treatment. Until recently, those who did experience symptoms were limited to blood thinning medications as the main treatment option. Those with ASD who have developed heart failure or arrythmia may consider an ASD closure to help relieve negative symptoms, like dizziness, fatigue or shortness of breath.

Both ASD and PFO increase your risk of a stroke, so you and your cardiologist may decide that an closure is right for you to reduce that risk.

How are closures performed?

ASD and PFO closures are performed in our cardiac catheterization lab at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. The interventional cardiologists in our cardiac cath labs have access to some of the most advanced technology available to treat even the most complex heart and vascular conditions. This safe and effective procedure provides several benefits for patients, including:

  • Fewer complications
  • No significant blood loss
  • No visible scars
  • Shortened recovery time

As a minimally invasive procedure, it is performed via a catheter inserted through the groin. From there a closure device, which is attached to the catheter, is put in place to correct the hole in your heart. Then the catheter is removed and the incision in your groin is closed.

This procedure takes one to two hours, and many patients are released the next day after the procedure.

ASD & PFO Closures at Georgia Heart Institute

The highly trained team at the Structural Heart Program at Georgia Heart Institute are leaders in treating structural and congenital issues of the heart. Our program offers minimally invasive, catheter-based interventions, through our state-of-the-art cardiac cath labs.

Bringing together expertise in structural heart conditions, interventional cardiology and our renowned cardiothoracic surgery team, Georgia Heart Institute ensures that you have the highest degree of expertise available for your procedure.

We offer surgical back-up for each of our cath lab procedures, which means a highly skilled cardiothoracic surgeon is on-site during your minimally invasive procedure to ensure that any complications are treated quickly and effectively, often without even needing to move to the operating room.  

Connect with our Program

If you’re ready to get started, contact our dedicated Structural Heart Program coordinator today to discuss your upcoming procedure or to refer a patient.

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