Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a common congenital cardiac abnormality. Risk of stroke increases perioperatively; however, the association of PFO with perioperative stroke risk remains unclear. We conducted a systematic review to inform the risk of perioperative stroke in patients with PFO undergoing surgery.
EMBASE, MEDLINE, and Cochrane databases were searched from inception to January 2020. We described methods used for establishing PFO and perioperative stroke diagnosis. We conducted meta-analyses to obtain pooled estimates for risk of stroke in patients with and without PFO in different surgical populations.
Ten articles with a total of 20,858,011 patients met the eligibility criteria. Prevalence of PFO ranged from 0.06-1.4% based on ICD code diagnosis and 10.4-40.4% based on echocardiography diagnosis. Perioperative stroke was observed in 0-25% of patients with PFO, and 0-16.7% without PFO. Studies that use echocardiography to diagnose PFO found no association between PFO and perioperative stroke. Studies that used ICD codes, found strong association but were highly heterogenous. PFO was not associated with a risk of perioperative stroke in cardiac and transplant surgeries. While the adjusted odds ratios for stroke were substantial for orthopedic, general, genitourinary, neuro, and thoracic surgeries (with PFO status established based on ICD codes), data heterogeneity and quality of data create significant uncertainty.
In conclusion, PFO is likely a risk factor for perioperative stroke in select types of surgeries. However, this is based on a very low-quality evidence. Rigorous, prospective studies are needed to further investigate this relationship.

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