Prognostic significance of patent foramen ovale in anticoagulated patients with atrial fibrillation

Rowlens M. Melduni, Waldemar E. Wysokinski, Zhenzhen Wang, Bernard J. Gersh, Samuel J. Asirvatham, Sri Harsha Patlolla, Eddie L. Greene, Jae K. Oh, Hon Chi Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Previous studies have postulated a causal role of patent foramen ovale (PFO) in the aetiology of embolic stroke in the general population. We hypothesised that the presence of concomitant PFO and atrial fibrillation (AF) will add incremental risk of ischaemic stroke to that linked to AF alone. Methods We analysed data on 3069 consecutive patients (mean age 69.4±12.2 years; 67.1% men) undergoing transoesophageal echocardiography-guided electrical cardioversion (ECV) for AF between May 2000 and March 2012. PFO was identified by colour Doppler and agitated saline contrast study. All patients were followed up after ECV for first documentation of ischaemic stroke. Outcomes were compared using Cox regression models. Results The prevalence of PFO was 20.0% and the shunt direction was left-to-right in the majority of patients (71.4%). Patients with PFO had a higher frequency of obstructive sleep apnoea (21.7% vs 17.1%, p=0.01) and higher mean peak left atrial appendage emptying velocity (38.3±21.8 vs 36.1±20.4 cm/s; p=0.04) compared with those without PFO. Otherwise, baseline characteristics were similar between groups. During a mean follow-up period of 7.3±4.6 years, 214 patients (7.0%) had ischaemic stroke. Multivariable analysis showed no significant association between PFO and ischaemic stroke (HR, 0.82 (95% CI 0.57 to 1.18)). PFO shunt direction was strongly associated with stroke: HR, 1.91 (95% CI 1.16 to 3.16) for right-to-left shunt and HR, 0.58 (95% CI 0.36 to 0.93) for left-to-right shunt. Conclusions The presence of concurrent PFO in this largely anticoagulated group of patients with AF was not associated with increased risk of ischaemic stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001229
JournalOpen Heart
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 6 2020


  • atrial fibrillation
  • atrial flutter
  • echocardiography
  • electrocardiography
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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