A patent foramen ovale is similar to an atrial septal defect in that both are holes that occur in the wall that divides the upper right and upper left chambers of the heart. However, while an atrial septal defect is something that occurs due to a portion of tissue that fails to form as it should prior to birth, a patent foramen ovale occurs when a hole that is always present in a newborn’s heart fails to close as it should once the lungs begin to function after birth. This hole (the foramen ovale) may not fully close in about one quarter of all newborns, thereby allowing a certain amount of blood to seep from the right atrium to the left atrium. However, in most cases this condition is not problematic and isn’t detected until the patient has an echocardiogram performed for some other reason. Closure of the hole may be recommended in specific situations and can be accomplished via a cardiac catheterization procedure where a special device is placed as a “plug,” or via corrective surgery.