Dabigatran or Aspirin After Embolic Stroke of Undetermined Source in Patients With Patent Foramen Ovale: Results From RE-SPECT ESUS

Stroke. 2021 Mar;52(3):1065-1068. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.031237. Epub 2021 Jan 28.


Background and purpose: Patent foramen ovale (PFO) may increase the risk of embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS). Guidelines suggest anticoagulation may be more effective than antiplatelets in preventing stroke in patients with ESUS and PFO when interventional closure is not performed.

Methods: Patients with ESUS randomized to dabigatran (150/110 mg BID) or aspirin (100 mg QD) from the RE-SPECT ESUS study (Randomized, Double-Blind, Evaluation in Secondary Stroke Prevention Comparing the Efficacy and Safety of the Oral Thrombin Inhibitor Dabigatran Etexilate Versus Acetylsalicylic Acid in Patients With Embolic Stroke of Undetermined Source) were included. The rate of recurrent stroke (primary end point) and ischemic stroke was reported for patients with and without baseline PFO. A meta-analysis comparing the effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy on ischemic stroke in patients with PFO was updated to include RE-SPECT ESUS.

Results: PFO was present in 680 of 5388 (12.6%) patients with documented PFO status. The risk of recurrent stroke with dabigatran versus aspirin was similar in patients with and without PFO (P for interaction, 0.8290). In patients with PFO, the meta-analysis found no statistically significant difference between anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy (odds ratio, 0.70 [95% CI, 0.43-1.14]) for ischemic stroke.

Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to recommend anticoagulation over antiplatelet therapy for patients with ESUS and a PFO. More data are needed to guide antithrombotic therapy in this population. Registration: URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT02239120.

Keywords: aspirin; dabigatran; foramen ovale, patent; meta-analysis; stroke.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02239120