Closing the Patent Foramen Ovale with Amplatzer Devices

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The relative risk of a thromboembolic event is four-fold higher in the 25–35% of adults with a patent foramen ovale (PFO) and 33-fold higher in patients who also have an atrial septal aneurysm. The American PICSS trial showed a yearly incidence of stroke or death after an initial event of 5% with warfarin and 9% with acetylsalicylic acid. The presence of a PFO more than doubles the mortality rate in patients with clinically relevant pulmonary embolism. The risk of a PFO increases with age. Proof of effectiveness in migraine alleviation is likely to be achievable in a couple of years – much quicker than in prevention of paradoxical embolism. Percutaneous closure of PFO has been performed with various devices at the University Hospital Bern in Switzerland since April 1994, with over 1,000 patients treated. At the last available transoesophageal echocardiogram, a significant residual shunt persisted in 4% with Amplatzer devices and 17% with other devices. During follow-up, a recurrent embolic event was observed in 1.6% of patients per year – less than would be expected under medical treatment. Several randomised multicentre trials comparing catheter closure with medical treatment have been started. The PC and CLOSURE trials are in the follow-up phase; results cannot be expected before 2010, and they may well be ‘falsely’ neutral because the follow-up is rather short for the low-risk patients randomised. In a matched control study on patients with cryptogenic stroke and a PFO, 158 patients were treated medically and 150 concomitant patients underwent percutaneous PFO closure. At four years, PFO closure resulted in a trend towards risk reduction of death, stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) (9 versus 24%; p=0.08) compared with medical treatment. The calculated occurrence of patients with cryptogenic strokes associated with a PFO amounts to somewhere between 100 and 300 per year and per million population, corresponding to more than 10% of yearly coronary angioplasty cases. Coronary and peripheral paradoxical emboli without prior exclusion of competing causes plus the presumed associations between PFO and migraine or decompression illness in divers open additional vast fields of potential indications for catheter closure. Finally, the linearly decreasing prevalence of a PFO with age suggests a weeding out of PFO carriers (unless spontaneous closure is assumed). A PFO represents a lethal threat that increases with age. It can be closed percutaneously in 15 minutes virtually free of complications. The patient can resume unrestricted physical activities a few hours after the intervention.

Bernhard Meier has received research grants and speaker fees from AGA Medical.
Bernhard Meier, Professor and Chairman of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Department, University Hospital, 3010 Bern, Switzerland. E:
Received date
08 September 2008
Accepted date
28 November 2008
European Cardiology - Volume 5 Issue 1;2009:5(1):71-74
Bernhard Meier, Professor and Chairman of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Department, University Hospital, 3010 Bern, Switzerland. E:
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