Left atrial size: physiologic determinants and clinical applications

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Jun 20;47(12):2357-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2006.02.048.


Left atrial (LA) enlargement has been proposed as a barometer of diastolic burden and a predictor of common cardiovascular outcomes such as atrial fibrillation, stroke, congestive heart failure, and cardiovascular death. It has been shown that advancing age alone does not independently contribute to LA enlargement, and the impact of gender on LA volume can largely be accounted for by the differences in body surface area between men and women. Therefore, enlargement of the left atrium reflects remodeling associated with pathophysiologic processes. In this review, we discuss the normal size and phasic function of the left atrium. Further, we outline the clinically important aspects and pitfalls of evaluating LA size, and the methods for assessing LA function using echocardiography. Finally, we review the determinants of LA size and remodeling, and we describe the evidence regarding the prognostic value of LA size. The use of LA volume for risk stratification is an evolving science. More data are required with respect to the natural history of LA remodeling in disease, the degree of LA modifiability with therapy, and whether regression of LA size translates into improved cardiovascular outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Function
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Atria / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart Atria / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Atria / pathology
  • Humans
  • Organ Size
  • Ultrasonography