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In rare cases a patent foramen ovale can cause a significant amount of blood to bypass the lungs, resulting in low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia).
In decompression illness, which can occur in scuba diving, an air blood clot can travel through a patent foramen ovale.
At this point, blood circulation follows the normal circulatory route.
The pressure of the blood pumping through the heart usually forces the flap opening of the foramen ovale closed.
The umbilical cord delivers oxygen-rich blood to the baby's right atrium.
Most of this blood travels through the foramen ovale and into the left atrium.
That means there's no need to pump blood to the lungs.
At this stage, it's more efficient for blood to bypass the lungs and use a different route to circulate oxygen-rich blood from the mother to the baby's body.
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In most people, the opening fuses shut, usually sometime during infancy.
Generally, a patent foramen ovale doesn't cause complications.
A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a hole in the heart that didn't close the way it should after birth.
During fetal development, a small flap-like opening — the foramen ovale (foh-RAY-mun oh-VAY-lee) — is normally present in the wall between the right and left upper chambers of the heart (atria). When the foramen ovale doesn't close, it's called a patent foramen ovale.