Purpose: To identify the rate of occurrence and type of incorrect echocardiographic diagnoses in patients with mechanical valve prostheses.
Patients and methods: We studied 170 consecutive patients (73 women and 97 men) with a total of 208 prostheses who underwent surgery for mitral (n = 136) or aortic (n = 72) valve dysfunction between January 1991 and December 1997. Preoperative echocardiographic data were compared with surgical findings. Any major discrepancy between the echocardiographic reports and surgery was judged to be unconfirmed when the preoperative echocardiographic diagnosis was not confirmed at surgery, but the prosthesis was found to be dysfunctioning; and was judged to be erroneous when the preoperative echocardiographic diagnosis was not confirmed, and surgical inspection failed to reveal any other prosthetic abnormality.
Results: There were 25 (12%) diagnostic errors. Of the 136 mitral prostheses, there were 9 unconfirmed diagnoses of paravalvular regurgitation (6 had a fibrous tissue overgrowth, 1 had a thrombus with fibrous tissue overgrowth, 1 had endocarditis vegetations, and 1 had a ball variance) and 5 erroneous diagnoses. Eleven diagnostic errors were made in the 72 aortic prostheses: there were 9 unconfirmed diagnoses (paravalvular regurgitation was diagnosed as transvalvular in 7, and transvalvular regurgitation as paravalvular in 2 cases), and 2 erroneous diagnoses.
Conclusions: Although echocardiography has gained great credibility among clinicians, special care should be taken when assessing patients in whom prosthetic valve dysfunction is suspected.