Heart Condition Doesn't Boost Risk of Second Stroke

Opening between organ's two upper chambers not a risk factor

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MONDAY, April 12, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- People with a heart condition called a patent foramen ovale (PFO) who have had a stroke with no known cause and received treatment don't have a greater risk of suffering a second stroke than people without PFO who have had a stroke.

So says a new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology. The finding, published in the April 13 issue of Neurology, refutes current thinking about PFO and risk of a second stroke.

A PFO is a small opening between the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart. This opening normally closes shortly after a person is born. But the opening fails to close in up to 25 percent of people.

"There was debate within the medical community about whether PFOs should be closed or managed with medication, so we hoped to resolve that guideline," guideline co-author Dr. Scott Kasner, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

The new guideline also says stroke patients younger than 55 with both a PFO and an atrial septal aneurysm (ASA) may be at increased risk of a second stroke. An ASA is a bulge in the wall between the atria.

About 5 percent of people have an ASA and as many as 70 percent of people with an ASA also have a PFO.

The guideline also found there was inadequate evidence to determine whether either warfarin or aspirin is better at reducing the risk of subsequent stroke. It did find that minor bleeding as a side effect is more common in people taking warfarin.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, April 12, 2004

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