For most people there's no reason to be concerned, but doctors believe that in some stroke victims a hole could present a problem. Christine Lynch suffered a stroke last fall. It was completely unexpected because she led a healthy lifestyle.
"I had absolutely no symptoms, I had no high blood pressure, I wasn't overweight, I exercised, I didn't smoke," says Christine Lynch.
Doctors didn’t know what caused the stroke and then they discovered Christine has a hole in her heart, a condition called PFO.
This hole in the heart condition is pretty common. In fact about 25 percent of Americans have one and most people don’t even know because it never causes a problem.
Dr. David Thaler with Tufts-NEMC says, “In some people though we do think a clot can travel through the hole and up into the head.”
Dr. Thaler is now conducting a study to see if closing the hole can prevent a second stroke. It's believed repairing the PFO can stop a potential clot from traveling to the head, but doctors need to do the research to know for sure.
"We don't yet know that closing the hole is the right thing to do meaning we don't know that it's any better or worse perhaps than just taking an aspirin everyday,” says Dr. Thaler.
Patients like Christine are taking part in the research at different sites across the country. She hopes her participation will help doctors find the best way to stop a second stroke.