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Stroke After Sex

Woman, 35, Suffers Rare Orgasm-Related Stroke

Stroke From Sex continued...

"In one of the cases we presented, it is a little embarrassing, one woman had stroke onset coincident with orgasm and having this sort of spontaneous guttural utterance or moan," Cucchiara tells WebMD.

But just having a PFO isn't enough to cause a stroke. A person also must have a blood clot, and that blood clot must break loose and enter the heart just in time to be sucked through the PFO during sex.

Normally a small blood clot would simply get stuck in the lungs and dissolve. But a blood clot that passes through a PFO can lodge in the brain and cause a stroke.

Biller's team did indeed find that their patient had a small blood clot in her leg, probably as a side effect of the oral contraceptives she used for birth control.

"This is a rare occurrence," Biller stresses.

"The vast, vast, vast majority of people with PFOs go through life and never have any problems," Cucchiara says. "You have to keep this risk of stroke during sex in perspective. The risk is very low.

"If you develop sudden neurological symptoms during sex, it could be a stroke and you need to seek help urgently and go to the emergency room," Cucchiara says. "But you should not spend a lot of time worrying about this. Even if you have a PFO, of all the things to worry about in life, this ranks near the bottom in risk."

There are devices available for closing PFOs. But Biller and Cucchiara both note that doctors currently don't recommend this procedure -- even for most people who have already suffered a stroke.

That recommendation didn't convince Biller's young patient.

"She was scared to death, and she and her boyfriend and family were pushing us very hard to close the defect, so that is what we did," Biller says. "So she had the device implanted to close the PFO."

Biller's report appears in the September issue of the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases.

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