Atrial septal defect is a congenital abnormality in which there is a hole or defect in the structure that separates the left atrium from the right atrium. If the defect is large and this can cause significant strain on the right-sided heart chambers and cause the right side of the heart to fail. Patients with this condition often have a heart murmur and the abnormality can be seen on echocardiography. This condition can be treated surgically with open-heart surgery. However some patients are candidates for closure of this defect with a device that can be placed via a catheter that is inserted through a leg in the veins. This device consists of 2 discs that can effectively seal this hole. This procedure avoids open heart surgery and pateints are often discharged from the hospital on the following day.
A patent foramen ovale is a somewhat similar situation in that there is a communication between the right and left atria. Prior to birth a natural communication exisits between the atria and this is a feature of the normal fetal circulation. After birth a layer of tissue closes this opening in most people. However in about 25% of people the opening is only partially closed. This usually has no clinical consequence. However in rare circumstances this opening a can serve as a pathway for a blood clot to travel from the right side of the heart to the left side. This blood clot could then travel to important organs such as the brain and result in a stroke. In some clinical situations it may be necessary to close this defect and this can be accomplished in the same way that an atrial septal defect is closed.