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Neurosciences & Stroke

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Medical Conditions that Increase Stroke Risk

Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of having a stroke. Fortunately, effective treatment is available for these conditions at WakeMed.

Hole in the Heart — All unborn babies have a small opening between the upper chambers of the heart called the foramen ovale. Its purpose is to redirect blood away from the lungs before birth. Once born, a child no longer needs the opening. The hole typically closes during the first months after birth. But sometimes the hole doesn’t close. The person is then left with a type of birth defect called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). The American Heart Association estimates that one in five healthy adults have a PFO.

Small PFOs may not cause any problems for children or adults. It’s the larger PFOs that can cause serious issues. A blood clot can travel through the hole in the heart and into the brain to cause a stroke but this is rare.