BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Trapped thrombus in patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a rare complication of pulmonary embolism that may lead to tragic clinical events. The aim of this study was to identify the optimal treatment for different clinical situations in patients with trapped thrombus in a PFO by conducting a literature review. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: A PubMed database search was conducted from 1991 through 2015, and 194 patients (185 articles) with trapped thrombus in a PFO were identified. Patient characteristics, paradoxical embolic events, and factors affecting 60-day mortality were analyzed retrospectively. RESULTS: Among all patients, 112 (57.7%) were treated with surgery, 28 with thrombolysis, and 54 with anticoagulation alone. Dyspnea (79.4%), chest pain (33.0%), and syncope (17.5%) were the most common presenting symptoms. Pretreatment embolism was found in 37.6% of cases, and stroke (24.7%) was the most common event. Surgery was associated with fewer post-treatment embolic events than were other treatment options (p=0.044). In the multivariate analysis, initial shock or arrest, and thrombolysis were independent predictors of 60-day mortality. Thrombolysis was related with higher 60-day mortality compared with surgery in patients who had no initial shock or arrest. CONCLUSION: This systematic review showed that surgery was associated with a lower overall incidence of post-treatment embolic events and a lower 60-day mortality in patients with trapped thrombus in a PFO. In patients without initial shock or arrest, thrombolysis was related with a higher 60-day mortality compared with surgery.