Sensitivity of transthoracic versus transesophageal echocardiography for the detection of native valve vegetations in the modern era

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2003 Jan;16(1):67-70. doi: 10.1067/mje.2003.43.


Background: Thirteen years ago, transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) was found to be less sensitive than transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for native valve vegetations. Since then, harmonic imaging and other advances have improved TTE. How this affects the sensitivity of TTE is unknown.

Methods: Fifty patients with echocardiography-diagnosed endocarditis had TTE and TEE examinations on high-end machines. These were matched for date of study with 50 patients who had TTE and TEE examinations that were negative for vegetations.

Results: A total of 51 vegetations were seen on TEE. The sensitivity of TTE for vegetations was only 55% (aortic 50% [12/24]; mitral 62% [16/26]; tricuspid 0% [0/1]). Anatomic valvular abnormalities did not alter the sensitivity of TTE (P =.42 for mitral; P =.97 for aortic valves). However, larger vegetations were more likely to be found by TTE.

Conclusion: Despite advances in imaging during 12 years, TTE is still insensitive compared with TEE for the detection of native valve vegetations, and fails to demonstrate nearly half of them.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Valve / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Valve / pathology
  • Echocardiography*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal*
  • Endocarditis / diagnosis
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve / diagnostic imaging
  • Mitral Valve / pathology
  • New York
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tricuspid Valve / diagnostic imaging
  • Tricuspid Valve / pathology