What you need to know
- Hackensack University Medical Center has established a Heart and Brain Center to evaluate and treat people with patent foramen ovale (PFO) — a small hole in the heart — who have had a stroke not due to other causes and who are at risk of a second stroke.
- The clinic is a collaboration between the medical center’s renowned cardiology and neurology experts in one multidisciplinary program and is the first of its kind in New Jersey.
More details on Hackensack’s Heart and Brain Center
The center enables patients to see a structural cardiologist and stroke neurologist during the same visit. The team meets four times a month and offers patients services such as:
- Diagnosis. Confirmation of the stroke and its cause, such as small vessel disease, atrial fibrillation, carotid artery narrowing (stenosis), or intracranial stenosis (narrowing of arteries in the brain). About one-third of patients don’t have a known cause of their stroke, and half of those are embolic strokes. Strokes with an unknown cause are called “cryptogenic” strokes.
- Evaluation. To determine if a patient who had a cryptogenic stroke has a PFO, doctors order tests such as echocardiography (ultrasound to see how the heart is beating and examine its structures) and a bubble test — safely introducing microbubbles into the patients blood to see where they filter out. If the bubbles collect in the left atrium, the patient could have a PFO. Its size can be determined via echocardiography.
- Treatment or Monitoring. Cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, and neurologists collaborate in team meetings to discuss each patient’s case and test results and determine the next steps: either a 40-minute procedure to close the PFO (inserting a small plug over the hole through a catheter) or follow-up visits with monitoring only. PFO closure is completed on an outpatient basis, so patients can go home the same day.
The Heart and Brain Center has been running for several months at Hackensack University Medical Center and is accepting new patient referrals. The center will also be expanded to Hackensack Meridian JFK University Medical Center, which has a robust stroke care center.