Is there a relationship between PFO’s and heart attacks?

Hello, I have a question related to PFOs and heart attacks. I’ve had two echocardiograms performed on me, one in 2014 and one in 2016. The first echo revealed nothing abnormal. They did not conduct a bubble test and said nothing about a PFO. About one year after the first echo, I had a severe bout of chest pain and I was worried that I might have suffered a heart attack. Therefore I had another echo performed. When reviewing the second echo, my doctor seemed confident that I did not suffer a heart attack. However, one of the images prompted them to also do a bubble test which revealed that I have a PFO. I’ve read that it’s easier to identity PFOs in patients that have suffered a heart attack. My question is: does the fact that the first echo did NOT reveal a PFO, but the second DID reveal one, make it possible that I could have suffered a heart attack in between the two tests? I trust my doctor, of course, but the fact that the first echo did not reveal a PFO makes me worry that I might have suffered an M.I. between tests.

Submitted by Jack from Washington on 03/24/2016

by Raymond F. Stainback, MD

Patent foramen ovale’s (PFO’s) are not caused by heart attacks. A PFO is present from birth and they are present in about 30 percent of the population (common). A PFO may be detected only by certain imaging techniques. Therefore, the PFO was likely present all along but not evident on the first exam.