Ask the Cardiologist: Will Closing My PFO End My Migraines?

Dr. Maciej Malinski is on the medical staff at Sherman Hospital. He has been kind enough to answer some frequently asked questions related to maintaining a healthy heart. Look for additional heart information from Dr. Malinski in the coming weeks.

Q: I am 45 years old and have PFO. My symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, migraines and zero energy. When I get the hole closed will all these go away?

A: This is a very good question. PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale) is a heart defect that involves the PFO, a flap-like opening between the two upper chambers of the heart. In the womb, all babies have this opening that makes circulation more efficient during development. However, following birth, the flaps normally close to form a solid wall between the chambers. If the PFO does not close, the opening can permit venous blood, which is normally filtered by the lungs, to pass unfiltered into the left side of the heart and pumped out to the body; including the brain.

It is estimated that 25% of adults may have a PFO, but more than 50% of patients with migraines (with aura) may have a PFO, and more than one-third of migraine sufferers may have a large PFO. The connection between migraine headaches and PFO is not clear, but there is some evidence from medical trails that closing PFO may relieve migraines. We are still waiting for a trial that would convincingly prove that closing the PFO helps to relieve migraines.

That is why the decision to close the PFO to treat migraines is done on case by case basis, and most of the time patients are encouraged to enroll in clinical trial. During the implant procedure, the physician delivers a medical device through the PFO and then open the device’s two sides independently, allowing physicians precise placement to close the PFO. The device is implanted through a catheter that is inserted into the femoral vein in the groin, making this procedure less invasive than open-heart surgeries.

I think you should see a cardiovascular specialist (cardiologist) or neurologist to help you, and I would encourage you to ask them to direct you to the center that participates in trials of closing PFO for migraine headaches.

Do you have a question for Dr. Malinski? To submit your question, either post it in the comments section below or email with the subject line “Question for Dr. Malinski.” For more information on heart health, click here to visit Sherman’s Heart and Vascular Center.

This post is published by Sherman Health to provide general health information. It is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from your physician.

About Sherman Health

Sherman Health has provided medical care to Northern IL since 1888, and is currently home to a network of over 600 physicians. The Sherman blogs are edited by me, Luke. Questions? Comments? Links? Email address is luke at shermanhealth dot com.
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