• transesophageal echocardiography;
  • complex atheroma;
  • stroke

Background: The purpose of this study was to determine the value of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in determining the presence of cardiac manifestations that required anticoagulation in patients presenting with acute stroke. Methods: Of 626 consecutive stroke patients who underwent TEE, 188 patients with no obvious etiology for stroke were subcategorized according to age. TEE results were analyzed for cardiac findings suggestive of a cause for embolic stroke, including complex atheromas in the arch/ascending aorta, patent foramen ovale (PFO), atrial septal aneurysm (ASA), and intracavitary thrombi. Data were analyzed using Fisher's exact test. Results: Of 188 patients, 66% (125/188) were older than 50 years and 34% (63/188) were younger than 50 years. The incidence of complex atheroma was 12.8% (16/125) in patients older than 50 years as compared to 0% (0/63) in patients who were younger than 50 years (P = 0.002). In patients older than 50 years, findings that indicated a need for anticoagulation based on TEE results were found in 22.4% (28/125) (atheroma = 16, PFO = 12, ASA = 5, thrombus = 3, PFO + ASA = 1) compared to 14.3% (9/63) (atheroma = 0, PFO = 5, ASA = 2, thrombus = 2, PFO + ASA = 1) in patients younger than 50 years. Conclusions: TEE plays an important role in suspected embolic stroke patients of all age groups. Due to the higher incidence of complex atheromas in patients older than 50 years of age, TEE might be of added importance in identifying the candidates who may benefit from anticoagulation. (Echocardiography 2010;27:1086-1092)