Having a hole in the heart may sound like a funny euphemism for someone who is cold or mean, but holes in the heart are an actual medical concern for both children and adults – and no, they do not have any relationship to the patient’s personality.
The idea alone of having a hole in the heart can be concerning, but it’s more common than you might think. The important thing to remember is that when these holes are present, they typically don’t present any serious issues or symptoms. However, larger holes can increase the risk of serious health issues and may require treatment. Let’s discuss what a hole in your heart means, when it becomes an issue, and how it is treated.
Types of Holes in the Heart
Human fetuses have a hole in their heart tissue that separates the left and right chambers, also known as the interatrial septum. This hole is called a foramen ovale. It allows blood to bypass the lungs since the lungs should not operate until exposed to air at birth. The two most common types of holes have to do with the interatrial septum.
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
PFO is a hole that is present in infancy. It exists in at least one-quarter of all infants, but they usually close up within the first year. However, if it does not go away by adulthood, then there is a possibility that the hole could cause issues down the road. Most cases of PFO don’t require major treatment if any at all. If the patient does not experience any symptoms, then the PFO may be left open.
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An ASD is a congenital heart defect that occurs when the septum does not form properly during fetal development. In most cases, ASD does not have any symptoms. However, if the ASD is relatively large, it can cause some disruption.
Symptoms of Holes in the Heart
Both PFO and ASD may exist without any symptoms, and patients can go their whole lives without realizing they had one. However, if the holes are large, they may be associated with some uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Heart murmur
- Shortness of breath
Treatments for Holes in the Heart
Treatments for PFO and ASD include medications to prevent blood clots or surgery if the hole is causing problems. Patients who have a hole in their heart may be at a higher risk for developing blood clots. If the hole is small, then it’s possible that medication may be enough to prevent clotting. However, if the hole is larger or continues to cause issues despite medications, there are some treatment options available, including:
- Anticoagulant Therapy: This medication limits the amount of blood clotting that occurs.
- Clot-Dissolving Medications: If a hole in the heart is associated with stroke, this type of medicine can help dissolve the clots to prevent future strokes.
- Surgery: This option will close up any holes or create new pathways for blood flow if necessary.
Visit Advanced Heart and Vein Center
Advanced Heart and Vein Center (AHVC) helped 49-year-old Oklahoma resident Anjenette (Anje) begin to live life to its fullest after closing a small hole in her heart that caused her a lifetime’s worth of health problems. If you suspect you have a PFO or ASD due to unexplained symptoms, don’t let it go ignored. At AHVC, we listen. Visit us for comprehensive and compassionate cardiovascular care. To request an appointment, call us at 720-772-8040.