Heart surgery is nothing to take lightly, however, researchers discovered that for certain conditions, it can decrease the risk of a second stroke. They looked specifically at a condition where there is a hole in the heart that didn’t close properly after birth. This is called patent foramen ovale (PFO). Many people use medication to manage this condition, but researchers wondered if correcting this through surgery would be more beneficial in reducing the risk of a second stroke.
About the study
Researchers reviewed the results of five randomized clinical trials that involved a total of 3,440 PFO patients. This hole in the heart of PFO patients allows the passage of blood from the right atrium to the left atrium. This condition usually doesn’t cause complications, but sometimes it can lead to other problems like migraines, stroke, or heart attack. Of the patients studied, 53% had surgical treatment to repair the PFO condition and the remainder took medication.
The patients who underwent PFO closure had a lower rate of recurrent stroke than those who only took medication. Neither group was statistically more likely to suffer a transient ischemic attack or major bleeding. However, PFO closure patients had a significantly increased risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is an abnormal heart rhythm caused by rapid and irregular heartbeats.
Dr. Amar Krishnaswamy from the Cleveland Clinic explains PFO closure for the prevention of stroke.
What does this mean for you?
PFO closure is superior to cardiac medical treatment for patients less than 60 years of age who have suffered a recent PFO-related cryptogenic stroke (any ischemic stroke that is not attributable to an identifiable cause). If you have PFO, talk to your doctor about surgical treatment. This is particularly important if you have recently suffered a cryptogenic stroke.
The lead author for this study is Babikir Kheiri of the Department of Internal Medicine, Hurley Medical Center, Michigan State University.