Usefulness of transesophageal echocardiography in the assessment of aortic dissection

M Penco, S Paparoni, A Dagianti, C Fusilli, A Vitarelli, F De Remigis, A Mazzola, V Di Luzio, R Gregorini, G D'Eusanio
American Journal of Cardiology 2000 August 17, 86 (4A): 53G-56G
The acute dissection of the ascending aorta requires prompt and reliable diagnosis to reduce the high risk of mortality; in addition, prognosis is influenced by long-term complications. The aim of this article is to discuss transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and (1) its diagnostic accuracy in the presurgical evaluation of patients, (2) its role in reducing time of diagnosis and surgery, and (3) its ability to reduce hospital mortality. TEE has also been tested as a screening method in the postsurgical follow-up of these patients. The retrospective investigation concerns a sample of 80 cases of acute dissection of the aorta, submitted for surgical intervention from April 1986 to February 1999. TEE has allowed a precise estimation of aortic diameters and optimal visualization of intimal flap and tear entry with a fine distinction between true and false lumen. A direct comparison of the results of TEE and of transthoracic echocardiography has demonstrated that some elements (visualization of flap and diameters in descending aorta, sites of entry and reentry, direction of jet trough intimal tears, phasic intimal flap movement, diastolic collapse of flap on the valvular plane, false lumen thrombosis, coronary involvement, intramural hematoma, and aortic fissuration) were identified only by TEE, whereas other additional diagnostic elements (cardiac tamponade, aortic valve insufficiency, left ventricular function) show a similar pattern of significance. Routine employment of this method has confirmed a reduction of hospitalization time (about 1.5 hours of waiting time), and hospital mortality has changed from 42.8% to 17.3%. In the follow-up of patients operated on for aortic dissection, fundamental information may be obtained from TEE (assessment of the progression of thrombosis in the false lumen with its complete obliteration and modifications in aortic diameter with a consequent, possible worsening of aortic valve insufficiency). In conclusion, our study demonstrated that TEE may provide fast and efficient detection of acute aortic dissection. In the postsurgical follow-up, TEE has confirmed detection of major complications that can influence long-term prognosis and may be proposed as a method with easy access-one that is repeatable and inexpensive for the screening of aortic dissection surgical patients.

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