Degenerative mitral valve disease (MVD), the most common acquired heart disease in small-sized dogs, is characterized by valvular degeneration resulting in systolic mitral valve regurgitation (MR). Worsening of MR leads to several combined complications including cardiac remodeling, increased left ventricular filling pressure, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and myocardial dysfunction. Conventional two-dimensional, M-mode, and Doppler examination plays a critical role in the initial and longitudinal assessment of dogs affected by MVD, providing information on mitral valve anatomy, MR severity, left ventricular (LV) size and function, as well as cardiac and vascular pressures. Several standard echocardiographic variables have been shown to be related to clinical outcome. Some of these markers (e.g., left atrium to aorta ratio, regurgitation fraction, pulmonary arterial pressure) may also help in identifying asymptomatic MVD dogs at higher risk of early decompensation, which remains a major issue in practice. However, both afterload and preload are altered during the disease course. This represents a limitation of conventional techniques to accurately assess myocardial function, as most corresponding variables are load-dependent. Recent ultrasound techniques including tissue Doppler imaging, strain and strain rate imaging, and speckle tracking echocardiography, provide new parameters to assess regional and global myocardial performance (e.g., myocardial velocities and gradients, deformation and rate of deformation, and mechanical synchrony). As illustration, the authors present new data obtained from a population of 91 dogs (74 MVD dogs, 17 age-matched controls) using strain imaging, and showing a significant longitudinal systolic alteration at the latest MVD heart failure stage.
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