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Transesophageal Echocardiography in the Evaluation of Stroke

Frances A. DeRook, MD; Keith A. Comess, MD; Gregory W. Albers, MD; and Richard L. Popp, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Requests for Reprints: Frances A. DeRook, MD, Echocardiography Laboratory, University of Washington Hospital, 4-North, 1959 NE Pacific, Seattle, WA 98195.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Albers: Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital, 3801 Miranda Street, Palo Alto, CA 94304.

Dr. DeRook: Echocardiography Laboratory, University of Washington Hospital, 4-North, 1959 NE Pacific, Seattle, WA 98195.

Dr. Comess: Virgnia Mason Clinic, 1100 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98111.

Dr. Popp: Cardiology Division, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305.


Ann Intern Med. 1992;117(11):922-932. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-117-11-922
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Objective: To review the current role of transesophageal echocardiography in the evaluation of stroke.

Data Identification: Articles examining the role of transesophageal echocardiography for evaluation of patients with stroke were identified using computer and bibliography searches.

Study Selection: All English-language articles that provided full details on patient selection criteria, methods, and study design were reviewed.

Results of Data Analysis: Cardiogenic embolism is frequently an uncertain diagnosis merely inferred by finding a potential cardiac source. Transthoracic echocardiography has had a low yield in screening unselected patients with stroke. Several series of patients with stroke have been reported comparing transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography. Potential cardiac sources of embolism were consistently identified in many more patients by transesophageal echocardiography. Many findings are, however, of uncertain significance; these include spontaneous echo contrast, patent foramen ovale, filamentous strands on the mitral valve, and atrial septal aneurysm.

Conclusions: Transesophageal echocardiography is most helpful in patients with stroke who are less than 45 years of age and in those without clinical evidence of heart disease. The indications for its use in the evaluation of stroke remain controversial. Further studies are needed using transesophageal echocardiography in patients with stroke and in control groups, not only to determine the natural history of transesophageal, echocardiographically detected abnormalities but also to evaluate treatment options.

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