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The Left Atrial Appendage, a Small, Blind-Ended Structure*: A Review of Its Echocardiographic Evaluation and Its Clinical Role

Erwan Donal, MD; Hirotsugu Yamada, MD, PhD; Christophe Leclercq, MD, PhD; Daniel Herpin, MD, PhD
Author and Funding Information

*From the University Hospital of Rennes (Drs. Donal and Leclercq), Rennes, France; the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Dr. Yamada), Cleveland, OH; and University Hospital of Poitiers (Dr. Herpin), Poiters, France.

Correspondence to: Erwan Donal, MD, Department of Cardiology, CCP CHU Pontchaillou, 35000 Rennes, France; e-mail: erwan.donal@chu-rennes.fr



Chest. 2005;128(3):1853-1862. doi:10.1378/chest.128.3.1853
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The increasing prevalence of stroke and atrial fibrillation is a stimulus for new therapeutic strategies and also warrants a review of imaging modalities of the most important source of cardiac systemic embolic events: the left atrial appendage (LAA). This blind-ended, complex structure is embryologically distinct from the body of the left atrium and is sometimes regarded as just a minor extension of the atrium. However, it should routinely be analyzed as part of a transesophageal echocardiographic (TEE) examination. A pulsed Doppler TEE analysis of LAA emptying flow should supplement a two-dimensional (2-D) analysis; these examinations have proven to be highly reproducible and to help assess thromboembolic risk. In 2-D imaging, potential thrombus and spontaneous echo contrast should be sought. In addition, LAA plays a hemodynamic role that participates in atrial function and is influenced by various hemodynamic conditions. In view of the embolic risks from a dysfunctional appendage, the LAA is often ligated during cardiac valve surgery. New devices are under evaluation for percutaneous closure of the LAA, and further studies should improve the definition, understanding, and treatment of LAA dysfunction.

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