This study investigated whether there is an association between the degree of interatrial shunting across a patent foramen ovale, as determined by saline contrast transesophageal echocardiography, and the risk of subsequent systemic embolic events, including stroke. Thirty-four patients found to have foramen ovale during transesophageal echocardiography were divided into two groups on the basis of the maximum number of microbubbles in the left heart in any single frame after intravenous saline contrast injection: group 1 (n = 16) with a "large" degree of shunt ( > or = 20 microbubbles) and group 2 (n = 18) with a "small" degree of shunt ( > or = 3 microbubbles). Patients were followed up over a mean period of 21 months for subsequent systemic embolic events, including transient ischemic attack and stroke. Five (31%) of the patients with large shunts had subsequent ischemic neurologic events, whereas none of the patients with small shunts had embolic events (p = 0.03). These events occurred in spite of antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy. We conclude that patients with a large degree of shunt across a patient foramen ovale, as determined by contrast transesophageal echocardiography, are at a significantly higher risk of subsequent adverse neurologic events compared with patients with a small degree of shunt.