Catheter procedures are much easier on patients than surgery because they involve only a needle puncture in the skin where the catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into a vein or an artery.
Doctors don't have to surgically open the chest or operate directly on the heart to repair the defect(s). This means that recovery may be easier and quicker.
The use of catheter procedures has grown a lot in the past 20 years. They have become the preferred way to repair many simple heart defects, such as atrial septal defect (ASD).
For an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), the doctor inserts a catheter through a vein and threads it into the heart to the septum. The catheter has a tiny, umbrella-like device folded up inside it.
When the catheter reaches the septum, the device is pushed out of the catheter. It's positioned so that it plugs the hole between the atria. The device is secured in place and the catheter is then withdrawn from the body.
For a Patent Foramen Ovale closure, a catheter is used to move the PFO closure device through the vein to the heart, and specifically to the location of the heart wall defect. Once in the correct location, the PFO closure device is formed so that it straddles each side of the hole. The device will remain in the heart permanently to stop the abnormal flow of blood between the two atrial chambers of the heart. The catheter is then removed and the procedure is complete.