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Doppler tissue imaging: a noninvasive technique for evaluation of left ventricular relaxation and estimation of filling pressures.

OBJECTIVES: This investigation was designed 1) to assess whether the early diastolic velocity of the mitral annulus (Ea) obtained with Doppler tissue imaging (DTI) behaves as a preload-independent index of left ventricular (LV) relaxation; and 2) to evaluate the relation of the mitral E/Ea ratio to LV filling pressures.

BACKGROUND: Recent observations suggest that Ea is an index of LV relaxation that is less influenced by LV filling pressures.

METHODS: One hundred twenty-five study subjects were classified into three groups according to mitral E/A ratio, LV ejection fraction (LVEF) and clinical symptoms: 34 asymptomatic subjects with a normal LVEF and an E/A ratio > or =1; 40 with a normal LVEF, an E/A ratio <1 and no heart failure symptoms (impaired relaxation [IR]); and 51 with heart failure symptoms and an E/A ratio >1 (pseudonormal [PN]). Ea was derived from the lateral border of the annulus. A subset of 60 patients had invasive measurement of pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) simultaneous with Doppler echocardiographic DTI.

RESULTS: Ea was reduced in the IR and PN groups compared with the group of normal subjects: 5.8 +/- 1.5 and 5.2 +/- 1.4 vs. 12 +/- 2.8 cm/s, respectively (p < 0.001). Mean PCWP (20 +/- 8 mm Hg) related weakly to mitral E (r = 0.68) but not to Ea. The E/Ea ratio related well to PCWP (r = 0.87; PCWP = 1.24 [E/Ea] + 1.9), with a difference between Doppler and catheter measurements of 0.1 +/- 3.8 mm Hg.

CONCLUSIONS: Ea behaves as a preload-independent index of LV relaxation. Mitral E velocity, corrected for the influence of relaxation (i.e., the E/Ea ratio), relates well to mean PCWP and may be used to estimate LV filling pressures.

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