Closure of Patent Foramen Ovale Versus Medical Therapy in Patients With Cryptogenic Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack: Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Stroke. 2018 Feb;49(2):412-418. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020030. Epub 2018 Jan 15.


Background and purpose: Previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses compared the efficacy and safety of patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure versus medical treatment in patients with cryptogenic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Recently, new evidence from randomized trials became available.

Methods: We searched PubMed until September 24, 2017, for trials comparing PFO closure with medical treatment in patients with cryptogenic stroke/TIA using the items: stroke or cerebrovascular accident or TIA and patent foramen ovale or paradoxical embolism and trial or study.

Results: Among 851 identified articles, 5 were eligible. In 3627 patients with 3.7-year mean follow-up, there was significant difference in ischemic stroke recurrence (0.53 versus 1.1 per 100 patient-years, respectively; odds ratio [OR], 0.43; 95% confidence intervals (CI), 0.21-0.90; relative risk reduction, 50.5%; absolute risk reduction, 2.11%; and number needed to treat to prevent 1 event, 46.5 for 3.7 years). There was no significant difference in TIAs (0.78 versus 0.98 per 100 patient-years, respectively; OR, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.53-1.19) and all-cause mortality (0.18 versus 0.23 per 100 patient-years, respectively; OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.34-1.56). New-onset atrial fibrillation occurred more frequently in the PFO closure arm (1.3 versus 0.25 per 100 patient-years, respectively; OR, 5.15; 95% CI, 2.18-12.15) and resolved in 72% of cases within 45 days, whereas rates of myocardial infarction (0.12 versus 0.09 per 100 patient-years, respectively; OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.25-5.91) and any serious adverse events (7.3 versus 7.3 per 100 patient-years, respectively; OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.92-1.25) were similar.

Conclusions: In patients with cryptogenic stroke/TIA and PFO who have their PFO closed, ischemic stroke recurrence is less frequent compared with patients receiving medical treatment. Atrial fibrillation is more frequent but mostly transient. There is no difference in TIA, all-cause mortality, or myocardial infarction.

Keywords: embolism, paradoxical; foramen ovale, patent; ischemic attack, transient; meta-analysis; review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / surgery*
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent / complications
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / complications
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroke / drug therapy
  • Stroke / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticoagulants
  • Fibrinolytic Agents