Selection of patients for transesophageal echocardiography after stroke and systemic embolic events. Role of transthoracic echocardiography

D Y Leung, I W Black, G B Cranney, W F Walsh, R A Grimm, W J Stewart, J D Thomas
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 1995, 26 (10): 1820-4

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: This study examined whether patients suffering from stroke and other systemic embolic events may be selected for transesophageal echocardiography on the basis of clinical and transthoracic echocardiographic findings.

METHODS: We performed transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography on 824 patients after stroke and other suspected embolic events. Patients were classified into group A if they were in sinus rhythm and had a normal transthoracic echocardiogram. Group B consisted of all other patients. Transesophageal echocardiographic findings of left atrial spontaneous contrast, left atrial thrombus, complex aortic atheroma, and interatrial septal anomalies were correlated with clinical and transthoracic echocardiographic results.

RESULTS: Transesophageal echocardiography detected at least one potential source of embolism in 399 patients (49%): spontaneous contrast in 214 patients (26%), left atrial thrombus in 54 (7%), complex atheroma in 111 (13%), and interatrial septal anomalies in 126 (15%). In group A (n = 236), only 3 (1%) had spontaneous contrast, 11 (4.6%) had complex atheroma, and none had left atrial thrombus. In group B (n = 588), 211 patients (36%, P < .001) had spontaneous contrast, 54 (9.2%, P < .001) had atrial thrombus, and 100 (17%, P < .001) had complex atheroma. Interatrial septal anomalies were detected in similar proportions of patients (18% in group A versus 14% in group B). Left atrial spontaneous echo contrast, thrombus, and complex atheroma were significantly more prevalent in older patients, but interatrial septal anomalies were more prevalent in younger patients irrespective of transthoracic echocardiographic findings. Multivariate analysis identified both an abnormal transthoracic echocardiogram and patient age to be independent predictors of transesophageal echocardiographic findings of left atrial spontaneous echo contrast, left atrial thrombus, or complex atheroma.

CONCLUSIONS: Transesophageal echocardiography has a low yield for left atrial spontaneous contrast, left atrial thrombus, or complex aortic atheroma in patients with normal transthoracic echocardiogram and sinus rhythm and in younger patients. Interatrial septal anomalies are more prevalent in younger patients. Transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed in patients after stroke or systemic embolic events as a noninvasive screening tool. We recommend transesophageal echocardiogram for patients with abnormal transthoracic echocardiogram and in younger patients when the finding of a patent foramen ovale may contribute to patient management.

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