HOUSTON (October 14, 2021)

Interventional cardiologists with McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston UTHealth Houston that are affiliated with Memorial Hermann Health System are the first in the world to use a new occlusion system to treat patients with patent foramen ovale (PFO) who are at risk of recurrent ischemic stroke.

The first procedures, using the FDA-approved Abbott Amplatzer Talisman PFO Occlusion System, were performed by Richard Smalling, M.D. and Abhijeet Dhoble, M.D. at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center on Oct. 7.

A PFO is a hole in the heart when the foramen ovale – a flap-like opening that is a normal part of fetal development allowing oxygenated blood to pass through the baby's heart and bypass the lungs – does not close as it should following birth. A PFO may cause stroke by allowing blood clots to pass from the right side of the heart to the left, where they can then travel to the brain. For patients who have suffered a stroke as a result of their PFO, physicians may opt for occlusion (or closure) of the PFO through a minimally invasive procedure using therapy like this new system to seal off the opening to reduce the risk of another stroke.

“I was part of the research team many years ago that determined closing a PFO with a device was better at reducing the risk of recurrent strokes than blood thinners or other medications,” said Smalling, director of interventional cardiovascular medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “Numerous studies over the past 20 years have shown that if a person had a PFO closed using a device that the rate of recurrent strokes not occurring was nearly 100%.”

The procedure involves using a catheter to cross over the PFO and push the device through it into the left atrium. A little disc is then also released into the right atrium. Once both sides are sealed, the device is then released and grows into the lining of the upper chambers of the heart.

“Over the years, there have been many opportunities to improve the design of these devices to further reduce the risk of complications,” said Dhoble, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and affliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “This device has proven to be successful at allowing us to treat these patients with more assurance that they will likely not suffer from recurrent strokes down the road.”

Please visit the Memorial Hermann web page to learn more about this procedure and heart and vascular care.