Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a birth defect characterized by a minor malformation in the heart, where a small hole “between the right and left atria (upper chambers) of the heart that fails to close naturally soon after a baby is born.”[1]  Patent foramen ovale is a type of atrial septal defect, a class of conditions marked by malformation of the wall between the atria in the heart.

Testing for PFO

PubMed Health, a service of the United States National Library of Medicine, states that “An echocardiogram can be done to diagnose a PFO. If the PFO is not easily seen, a cardiologist can perform a “bubble test.” Saline solution (salt water) is injected into the body as the cardiologist watches the heart on an ultrasound (echocardiogram) monitor. If a PFO exists, tiny air bubbles will be seen moving from the right to left side of the heart.”[2]

Treatment for PFO

Fortunately, this condition often does not require treatment, and it is common that babies with PFO will have a normal, healthy development.  Treatment may be required if “there are other heart problems, or the person had a stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain.”[3]  But thankfully, “unless there are other defects, there are usually no complications from a PFO.”[4]

Patent Foramen Ovale Linked to Maternal SSRI Use

Recently, a study published by Diav-Citrin et al in The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has determined that maternal use of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) during pregnancy, especially Paxil®, dramatically raises the risk of giving birth to a child with a patent foramen ovale.[5]  The original research that established the connection between Paxil® and patent foramen ovale and other birth defects can be found here.

Paxil® Lawsuit for Birth Defects

Because the manufacturer of Paxil® and other SSRI drugs does not warn users of the danger posed to developing babies whose mothers use SSRIs, a number of SSRI birth defect lawsuits are currently being filed.  If you used Paxil® or another SSRI drug during pregnancy and your child was born with a PFO or another congenital malformation, you may be entitled to financial compensation for injury sustained by you or your child as a result of Paxil® use.  If you believe this applies to you and your family, please do not hesitate to contact our strong team of SSRI birth defect lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation at (855) 452-5529 or by e-mail at

We have the tools, experience, and resources needed to fight for the justice your family deserves.  We will be here to help you every step of the way.  Our SSRI Birth Defects Lawsuit Information page is a great place to start if you have any questions about SSRIs and Birth Defects.

[1] “Patent foramen ovale – PubMed Health” PubMed Health. US National Library of Medicine. © 2012 A.D.A.M., Inc. Available at <> Accessed 4 February 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Diav-Citrin, O., et al., (2008) “Paroxetine and fluoxetine in pregnancy: a prospective, multicentre, controlled, observational study” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Vol. 66, No. 5; pp. 695-705