Patent Foramen Ovale Closure in Patients with Transient Ischemia Attack/Stroke


Address for reprints: Horst Sievert M.D., Cardiovascular Center Bethanien CCB, Im Priifling 23, 60389 Frankfurt, Germany; Fax: 49–69–94502859; e-mail:


Paradoxical embolism through a patent foramen ovale (PFO) has been recognized as a potential cause of transient ischemia attack (TIA) and stroke especially in younger patients. The therapeutic options are medical treatment (antiaggregation or anticoagulation) with an annual recurrence rate of 3% to 4% for stroke or TIA, surgical PFO closure, or catheter closure. Randomized studies are ongoing; however, the results will not be available soon. Since August 1994, we have attempted catheter closure of a PFO in 281 patients (age 17 to 79 years, mean 46.8 ± 13.2) with paradoxical embolism. Of these, 184 patients had at least one embolic stroke, 112 patients at least one TIA, and 15 patients at least one peripheral embolism. The diameter of the PFO, measured with a balloon catheter, ranged from 3 mm to 24 mm with a mean of 10 ± 3.5 mm. Implantation of the occluder was technically successful in all patients (two attempts in four patients). Seven different devices were used: 26 Sideris buttoned, 11 ASDOS, 19 Angel Wings, 98 PFO-Star, 37 Cardioseal-Starflex, 57 Amplatzer and, 33 Helex devices. One patient suffered from septicemia and subsequently died. In 2 patients, device embolization occurred during or after the procedure (1 Sideris, 1 PFO-Star; catheter retrieval successful). Thirty-seven patients had other minor complications without long-term sequelae: atrial fibrillation within the first weeks after implantation in five patients, asymptomatic thrombus on the device at routine transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) in 7 patients (I Angel Wings, 1 ASDOS, 1 CardioSeal, 4 PFO-Star), and device frame fracture in 25 patients (2 Sideris, 4 ASDOS, I Angel Wings, 1 CardioSeal, 17 PFO-Star). No complications occurred with the newer devices (Amplatzer and Helex). A residual shunt after 6 months was found in 5.5% of the patients who had completed their 6-month TEE follow-up. In two patients, a second occluder was implanted because of a residual shunt. During a follow-up period of 1 month to 71 months (mean 12 ± 16 months, 268 patient years), a recurrence of an embolic event (seven TIA, two stroke) occurred in eight patients. None of these occurred with the newer devices (Amplatzer, Helex). Freedom from recurrence of the combined end point of TIA, ischemic stroke, and peripheral embolism was 95.7% (95% CI: 89.0%–98.4%) at 1 year and 94.1 % (95% CI: 80.1–98.4%) at 3 years. Catheter PFO closure is a technically simple procedure. With the newer devices and increasing experience, the success rate has improved and the complication rate has decreased. The advantage of the procedure is that closing the defect means a causal treatment. However, catheter closure of PFO despite a very low morbidity has inherent potential risks like any other interventional procedure. Furthermore, selection of patients who definitely have PFO as the cause of their cerebral event has not been defined. For these reasons, further studies are warranted. (J Interven Cardiol 2001; 14:261–266)