Open Access

Detection of Patent foramen Ovale with Contrast Enhanced Transcranial Doppler at Divers


Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a condition present in 25% of the adult population. It is a remnant of fetal foramen ovale which allows blood to pass from the right to the left atrium, bypassing the fetal lungs. In majority adults it does not have any clinical significance, but in some people it may allow shunting of venous blood into the left atrium (right – left – shunt or RLS), circumventing the lung filter, especially during sneezing, cough, lifting heavy equipment. Is such case, PFO may be a route for venous emboli or gas bubbles from veins to the arterial system. It is known as a paradoxical embolism and may be cause of ischaemic stroke or neurologic decompression sickness (DCI), inner-ear DCI and cutis marmorata. Transesophageal echocardiography is considered as a reference standard in detection of intracardial shunts. Its sensitivity and specificity ranges between 94%-100%. However, TEE is an invasive examination with potentially serious side effects. An alternative examination in RLS detection is contrast enhanced Transcranial Doppler (the bubble study or c-TCD). In comparison to TEE, Transcranial Doppler is not invasive, relatively not expensive and save technique. With its high sensitivity and specificity in detection of PFO, 97% and 93% respectively, it may improve detection of RLS and allow to conduct screening examination for PFO in divers.