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Case 1: Management of Patent Foramen Ovale

A 26-year-old woman presented to the emergency department (ED) with chest pain for 1 day. The chest pain started suddenly, was nonradiating, and was associated with arm movement. She did house cleaning 1 day prior to presentation. The pain was not relieved by taking over-the-counter medication. She denied palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, and trauma. Her family history and social history were unremarkable. On presentation to the ED, her vital signs were stable. On physical examination, she did not have any significant findings except chest wall tenderness. Her ECG showed first-degree atrioventricular block. Initial laboratory findings were unremarkable. She was given analgesics. The patient was transferred to the telemetry floor, where an echocardiogram was performed, which showed a normal left ventricular ejection fraction with no wall motion or valvular abnormality and a small patent foramen ovale (PFO). How would you manage this case?

Case Review

This patient is a young asymptomatic woman who presented with musculoskeletal chest pain. Incidentally, she was noted to have a PFO, which is asymptomatic and does not require any treatment.

Case Discussion

PFO is an opening in the atrial wall at the location of the fossa ovalis that remains open beyond 1 year of life. After birth, when the pulmonary circulation develops, the foramen ovale closes due to the increase in left atrial pressures, which takes up to 1 year.

PFO is usually asymptomatic and is often found incidentally. However, it carries a risk of paradoxical embolism in high-risk patients. Some patients present with systemic embolism causing organ infarcts and even myocardial infarction.

The diagnostic test of choice is echocardiography. PFO can be detected using color flow Doppler, contrast echocardiography, and transmitral Doppler.


Isolated PFO does not usually require any treatment unless it is associated with an unexplained neurologic event. Such conditions are treated with antiplatelet drugs and anticoagulation therapy. Percutaneous closure of the PFO is an option when there is contraindication to medical management and anticoagulant treatment, in the setting of paradoxical embolism or cryptogenic stroke. Surgical closure is indicated when the opening is >25 mm or when there is failure of a percutaneous device.

Key Points

  • PFO is usually asymptomatic and is often found incidentally.

  • Isolated PFO does not usually require any treatment unless it is associated with an unexplained neurologic event.

Case 2: Management of Aortic Stenosis

A 78-year-old man with a medical history of hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease presented to the emergency department with worsening exercise tolerance for the past 6 months. He usually walks to his workplace, which is 6 blocks away from his home, but for the past few months, he has been barely able to walk for 2 to ...

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