How is patent foramen ovale diagnosed?

Specialized testing is needed to detect a PFO. This includes:

  • Echocardiogram (echo) – An ultrasound of the heart to check blood flow across the heart valves and chambers.
  • Transesophageal echo (TEE) – A probe with a tiny camera is placed in the esophagus (swallowing/ food tube) . This type of echo shows a clearer picture of the defect than a standard echo does.
  • Bubble study – This is done during an echo or TEE. An IV filled with agitated saline is placed in your arm. The saline makes bubbles that the doctor watches to see if they move from one side of the heart to the other.

You may need other tests to check your heart rhythm, nervous system, and to test for conditions that increase your risk of blood clots (hypercoagulable state).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/03/2019.


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