Procedure fixes heart defect that lets blood clots flow to brain

When 29-year-old Eric Lange suddenly experienced several hours of mental confusion last July, physicians at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center naturally ordered brain scans and carotid artery studies in their first search for a cause. With the initial exams turning out OK, Eric’s neurologist pursued other clues and ended up finding a heart defect called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO. A blood clot was believed to have slipped through the defect and out of the normal route of circulation that would have filtered it in the lungs. Instead, the clot traveled to Eric’s brain and temporarily blocked the flow of blood, causing a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, which is similar to a stroke but it does not cause permanent brain damage.