Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital heart defect in which blood flows between the atria (upper chambers) of the heart. Some flow is a normal condition both pre-birth and immediately post-birth via the foramen ovale; however, when this does not naturally close after birth it is referred to as a patent (open) foramen ovale (PFO). It is common in patients with a congenital atrial septal aneurysm (ASA). After PFO closure the atria normally are separated by a dividing wall, the interatrial septum. If this septum is defective or absent, then oxygen-rich blood can flow directly from the left side of the heart to mix with the oxygen-poor blood in the right side of the heart; or the opposite, depending on whether the left or right atrium has the higher blood pressure. In the absence of other heart defects, the left atrium has the higher pressure. This can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs, and tissues. However, an ASD may not produce noticeable signs or symptoms, especially if the defect is small. Also, in terms of health risks, people who have had a cryptogenic stroke are more likely to have a PFO than the general population.A cardiac shunt is the presence of a net flow of blood through a defect, either from left to right or right to left. The amount of shunting present, if any, determines the hemodynamic significance of the ASD. A right-to-left-shunt results in venous blood entering the left side of the heart and into the arterial circulation without passing through the pulmonary circulation to be oxygenated. This may result in the clinical finding of cyanosis, the presence of bluish-colored skin, especially of the lips and under the nails. During development of the baby, the interatrial septum develops to separate the left and right atria. However, a hole in the septum called the foramen ovale allows blood from the right atrium to enter the left atrium during fetal development. This opening allows blood to bypass the nonfunctional fetal lungs while the fetus obtains its oxygen from the placenta. A layer of tissue called the septum secundum acts as a valve over the foramen ovale during fetal development. After birth, the pressure in the right side of the heart drops as the lungs open and begin working, causing the foramen ovale to close entirely. In about 25% of adults, the foramen ovale does not entirely seal. In these cases, any elevation of the pressure in the pulmonary circulatory system (due to pulmonary hypertension, temporarily while coughing, etc.) can cause the foramen ovale to remain open.