Atrial Thrombi—A Prospective Follow-up Study over 3 Years with Transesophageal Echocardiography and Cranial Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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Abstract

Background

Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial thrombi have an increased risk for cerebral embolism. However, there is little knowledge about the long-term fate of atrial thrombi and the incidence of cerebral embolism in patients under oral anticoagulation.

Methods

Consecutive patients with persistent or permanent AF and left atrial (LA) thrombi were included in the study. We performed serial and prospective transesophageal echocardiography, cranial magnetic resonance imaging, and clinical examinations during a period of 3 years. Oral anticoagulation was continued or initiated in all patients. A target INR of 2.5 was intended in all patients.

Results

Forty-three patients with LA thrombi and persistent or permanent AF were included. During the follow-up period 31(72%) of the thrombi disappeared. Patients with disappearance of thrombi had significantly smaller thrombi (P < 0.01), a lower echogenicity of thrombi (P < 0.01), and a lower LA volume (P = 0.02). Twenty-two (51%) patients suffered from cerebral embolism and/or death during the observation period. Five patients died due to embolic events. The only independent predictors of cerebral embolism were an elevated peak emptying velocity of the LA appendage (P < 0.001) and a history of previous thromboembolism (P < 0.01).

Conclusions

Patients with persistent or permanent AF and atrial thrombi have a high long-term risk of cerebral embolism and/or death (51%) even despite the oral anticoagulation therapy. Thrombus size may predict thrombus resolution under continued anticoagulation.

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