Surgical patent foramen ovale closure for prevention of paradoxical embolism-related cerebrovascular ischemic events

J A Dearani, B S Ugurlu, G K Danielson, R C Daly, C G McGregor, C J Mullany, F J Puga, T A Orszulak, B J Anderson, R D Brown, H V Schaff
Circulation 1999 November 9, 100 (19): II171-5

BACKGROUND: The role of surgical closure of patent foramen ovale (PFO) for cerebral infarction (CI) or transient ischemic attack (TIA) resulting from paradoxical embolism is unclear, and its effect on recurrence is unknown. Our objective was to determine the outcome of surgical closure of PFO in patients with a prior ischemic neurological event, define the rate of CI or TIA recurrence after PFO closure, and identify risk factors for these recurrences.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We retrospectively analyzed 91 patients (58 men, 33 women) with >/=1 previous cerebrovascular ischemic events who underwent surgical PFO closure between April 1982 and March 1998. The presence of a PFO with a right-to-left shunt was confirmed with transesophageal echocardiography. Mean age was 44.2+/-12.2 years. The index event was a CI in 59 and a TIA in 32; a Valsalva-like episode preceded the event in 15 patients. Deep venous thrombosis was documented in 9 patients, and a hypercoagulable state was identified in 10. Surgical closure was performed with extracorporeal circulation by either direct suture (n=82) or patch closure (n=9). Limited incisions were used in 18.7% of patients. There was no operative mortality. Morbidity included transient atrial fibrillation (n=11), pericardial drainage for effusion (n=4), exploration for bleeding (n=3), and superficial wound infection (n=1). Follow-up totaled 176.3 patient-years, and mean follow-up was 2.0 years. No one had a CI, and 8 had a TIA during follow-up, with 1 caused by temporal arteritis. Transesophageal echocardiography demonstrated all closures to be intact in these patients. The overall freedom from TIA recurrence during follow-up was 92.5+/-3.2% at 1 year and 83.4+/-6.0% at 4 years. Having multiple neurological events before PFO closure was the only significant risk factor for TIA or CI recurrence after closure by univariate analysis (P=0.05); the small number of post-PFO closure cerebral ischemic events precluded multivariate analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: Surgical closure of PFO can be performed with minimal morbidity and mortality. PFO closure may decrease the risk of recurrent stroke or TIA and may avoid lifelong anticoagulation in the young adult if there is no other indication. Recurrent cerebrovascular ischemic events after surgery should prompt further evaluation to identify causes other than paradoxical embolism.

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