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Patent foramen ovale and stroke.

GERMANY -- A patent (open) foramen ovale (PFO) is a small channel that has little noticeable consequence. Echocardiograms might not reveal any shunting of blood except when the patient coughs. Since a PFO does not usually cause signs or symptoms, most people do not know they have the condition.

The risk of a stroke might be higher if a patient is also at an increased risk for blood clots, whether caused by a medical condition, poor circulation, or inactivity. Stroke risk might also be higher if a patient had an atrial septal aneurysm, a condition in which the wall between the heart's upper chambers is floppy and more mobile than usual.

The relationship between a PFO and stroke is now being studied to determine whether closing the PFO can reduce the risk of future strokes and whether a PFO might be associated with migraine and decompression sickness observed in divers. Neurologists and cardiologists are debating the role of a PFO in neurological events such as stroke and transient ischemic attacks without any other potential cause.

Researchers from the University Hospital Freiburg examined the association between a PFO and stroke of unknown cause among 503 patients. The prevalence of PFO was higher among patients with an unknown cause (34 percent) than among those with a stroke of a known cause (12 percent). This higher prevalence was noted in both younger and older subgroups.

(Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2007;357:2262-2268.)

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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