JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Diagnosis of patent foramen ovale by transesophageal echocardiography and correlation with autopsy findings.

Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is accepted as the method of choice for the diagnosis of the patent foramen ovale (PFO). However, direct anatomic confirmation regarding the presence or absence of a PFO on transesophageal imaging has been obtained in only a limited number of patients. Consequently, this study was performed to assess the diagnostic accuracy of contrast and color Doppler TEE for detection of a PFO by comparing the results of TEE with autopsy. The study population comprised 35 consecutive patients (mean age 64 +/- 14 years) who underwent autopsy and prior TEE with examination of the atrial septum. For diagnosis of a PFO, the following criteria were used: (1) no defect in the continuity of the atrial septum on 2-dimensional imaging; (2) > or = 1 bright microbubble appearing in left the atrium within 3 heart cycles after opacification of the right atrium during contrast TEE; and (3) turbulent color jet within the atrial septum by color Doppler TEE. For estimating the PFO size, positive contrast studies were graded semiquantitatively (from 1 to 3), and the maximal color Doppler jet width was measured within the atrium septum at the area of maximal turbulence. At autopsy, a PFO was present in 9 of 35 patients (26%). All were correctly diagnosed by color Doppler TEE. The color Doppler jet width correlated well with the PFO diameter determined at autopsy (r=0.99, SEE=0.51 mm, p<0.0001). By contrast TEE, 8 of the 9 patients with autopsy-proven PFO were correctly identified. In 1 case with left heart disease and a long interatrial channel, a PFO was missed by contrast TEE but clearly demonstrated by color Doppler TEE. All patients with a PFO diameter >10 mm showed intense left atrial opacification of grade 3. With both methods, there were no false-positive results. Sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis of a PFO were 89% and 100% respectively, for contrast TEE, and both 100% for color Doppler TEE. Thus, contrast and color Doppler TEE are complementary and represent a highly sensitive and specific method for diagnosis of a PFO and for estimation of the PFO size.

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