Differential Transesophageal Echocardiographic Diagnosis Between Linear Artifacts and Intraluminal Flap of Aortic Dissection or Disruption*

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Background:The relatively low specificity of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for the diagnosis of aortic dissection (AD) or traumatic disruption of the aorta (TDA) has been attributed to linear artifacts. We sought to determine the incidence of intra-aortic linear artifacts in a cohort of patients with suspected AD or TDA, to establish the differential TEE diagnostic criteria between these artifacts and true aortic flaps, and to evaluate their impact on TEE diagnostic accuracy.Methods and results:During an 8-year period, patients at high risk of AD (n = 261) or TDA (n = 90) who underwent a TEE study and had confirmed final diagnoses were studied. In an initial retrospective series, linear artifacts were observed within the ascending and descending aorta in 59 of 230 patients (26%) and 17 of 230 patients (7%), respectively. TEE findings associated with linear artifacts in the ascending aorta were as follows: displacement parallel to aortic walls; similar blood flow velocities on both sides; angle with the aortic wall > 85°; and thickness > 2.5 mm. Diagnostic criteria of reverberant images in the descending aorta were as follows: displacement parallel to aortic walls, overimposition of blood flow, and similar blood flow velocities on both sides of the image. In a subsequent prospective series (n = 121), systematic use of these diagnostic criteria resulted in improved TEE specificity for the identification of true intra-aortic flaps.Conclusions:Misleading intra-aortic linear artifacts are frequently observed in patients undergoing a TEE study for suspected AD or TDA. Routine use of the herein-proposed diagnostic criteria promises to further improve TEE diagnostic accuracy in the setting of severely ill patients with potential need for prompt surgery.

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