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Keywords:

  • Transcranial doppler;
  • cryptogenic stroke;
  • shunting

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Paradoxical embolism through extracardiac right-to-left shunts (ECRLS) may represent an under-detected stroke mechanism. Stroke patients without evidence of cardiac right-to-left shunt (RLS) on echocardiogram may benefit from transcranial Doppler with bubble study (TCD-b) to aid in recognition of stroke etiology. This study assesses the usefulness of TCD-b in the stroke evaluation.

METHODS

Retrospective cohort study of consecutive patients undergoing TCD-b performed in our neurovascular laboratory from February 2005 to August 2009. Echocardiography results were reviewed in patients with positive TCD-b. Detailed medical record review was performed on patients with positive TCD-b and negative echocardiogram findings for RLS.

RESULTS

Of 502 patients undergoing TCD-b, 48.4% (n = 243) had a positive study suggesting the presence of RLS. Of these, 59.2% (n = 144) had an echocardiogram demonstrating a cardiac RLS, 26% (n = 63) had echocardiograms without evidence of cardiac RLS, and 14.8% (n = 36) had no echocardiogram. Data on the evaluation to determine source of potential shunting in patients with discrepant findings was available in 11(17.5%). Of these, 63.6% (7/11) had potential mechanisms for positive TCD-b: one pulmonary arteriovenous malformation (AVM), one arteriovenous fistula thrombus, one parietal AVM, and four had malignancy.

CONCLUSIONS

TCD-bubble studies may prove useful in uncovering treatable causes of stroke.