Unresolved or Contradictory Issues About Management of Patients With Patent Foramen Ovale and Previous Cryptogenic Stroke: Additional Randomized Controlled Trials Are Eagerly Awaited

Renato De Vecchis, Cesare Baldi


Stating a well-codified and widely accepted therapeutic conduct for patients with patent foramen ovale (PFO) and previous cryptogenic stroke is made difficult and somewhat controversial by several issues remained unresolved so far. In this short review, some aspects of the possible role played by the PFO in the pathogenesis of cryptogenic stroke are succinctly analyzed. First, some aspects of cardiovascular anatomy of the human fetus and the adult are outlined. Subsequently, the three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that have been accomplished so far to compare the implant of a transeptal occluding device with a simple medical therapy in patients with PFO and history of cryptogenic stroke are briefly examined. These RCTs, when assessed using the “intention to treat” method, do not show a greater protective effect of therapy with transeptal device as regards the recurrences of stroke. Afterwards, there is a brief presentation of the findings of several meta-analyses that have been derived from the three above mentioned RCTs, whose results are strikingly discordant with each other. In fact, some of them come to the conclusion that the transcatheter closure of PFO does not offer significant advantages compared to antithrombotic therapy for the secondary prevention of cryptogenic stroke, while others based on subgroup analyses argue that the transcatheter closure of PFO with Amplatzer device, differently from the one performed using the STARFlex device, would be associated with significantly lower incidence of cerebrovascular events compared with medical therapy alone. Finally, the authors argue the need to adhere to the current scientific guidelines. They substantially deny an alleged superior efficacy of transcatheter PFO occlusion compared to medical therapy with antithrombotic agents (anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents), except for selected cases of patients with documented PFO and concomitant clinical-instrumental picture of deep venous thrombosis.

J Clin Med Res. 2016;8(5):361-366
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2491w


Patent foramen ovale; Cryptogenic stroke; Secondary prevention

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