Regional left atrial stasis during atrial fibrillation and flutter: Determinants and relation to stroke

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Objectives. This study sought to 1) determine the location of left atrial stasis during atrial arrhythmia; 2) define the degree of stasis associated with significant risk of stroke; and 3) identify clinical or transthoracic echocardiographic data useful for pre-dieting left atrial stasis. Background. Prior studies suggest that stroke during atrial arrhythmia is related to stasis in either the body of the left atrium or the appendage. Recent data indicate that appendage stasis is associated with appendage thrombus formation, but stroke during atrial arrhythmia occurs frequently in the absence of appendage stasis. Methods. Blood flow velocity was measured in multiple sites in the body of the left atrium and in the appendage by transesophageal pulsed wave Doppler echocardiography in 89 patients with atrial fibrillation or flatter. Regional velocities were related to the frequency of probable embolic stroke and to clinical and transthoracic echocardiographic variables. Results. The lowest velocity region was either the posterior left atrium or the appendage. Stroke frequency increased progressively and steeply with velocity <15 cm/s in either region; this cutoff value had an 87% sensitivity and 40% specificity for stroke. Factors related to stasis were low left atrial ejection fraction, mitral regurgitation <3+, fibrillation (vs. type I flutter), left ventricular dilation and mitral valve area <2.0 cm2. Conclusions. Posterior left atrial stasis appears to be as important as appendage stasis for the risk of stroke, which increases steeply with lower blood flow velocity in either region. Patients likely to have severe stasis during atrial arrhythmia are those with left ventricular dilation and low atrial ejection fraction accompanying left atrial dilation. Direct measurement of atrial velocity by transesophageal echocardiography appears to be useful for the identification of patients at risk for stroke during atrial arrhythmia.




Shively, B. K., Gelgand, E. A., & Crawford, M. H. (1996). Regional left atrial stasis during atrial fibrillation and flutter: Determinants and relation to stroke. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 27(7), 1722–1729.

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