Use of ultrasound enhancing agents in transesophageal echocardiography to improve interpretive confidence of left atrial appendage thrombus

Echocardiography. 2019 Feb;36(2):362-369. doi: 10.1111/echo.14228. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


Background: The value of ultrasound enhancing agents (UEA) in patients undergoing transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for the exclusion of left atrial appendage (LAA) thrombi prior to direct current cardioversion (DCCV) is evolving.

Methods: We retrospectively identified 88 consecutive TEEs, where a commercial UEA was used during LAA interrogation. De-identified non-enhanced (pre-UEA) and enhanced cine loop images (post-UEA) from the same subjects were randomly reviewed by four expert readers in a blinded fashion.

Results: In 33% of the cases, UEA use was associated with a statistically insignificant improvement in physician confidence (scale, 0-3) in determining the presence or absence of a LAA thrombus (P = 0.071). In instances where non-enhanced images yielded an uncertain interpretation or when the left atrium contained spontaneous echo contrast (SEC), UEA use was associated with an improvement in interpretive confidence in 49% (P < 0.001) and 41% of the cases (P = 0.001), respectively. Overall, the absolute rate of hypothetical decision to proceed with DCCV rose by 9% with the application of UEA (P = 0.004). In instances where non-enhanced images were interpreted with limited confidence or when SEC was present, there were absolute increases of 16% (P < 0.001) and 21% (P < 0.001) in hypothetical procession to DCCV, respectively. In cases of a combination of limited interpretive confidence and SEC, UEA use was associated with a 29% absolute increase in the rate of procession to DCCV (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: In patients undergoing TEE interrogation of the LAA, the use of UEA is associated with an increase in the level of interpretive confidence and higher rates of theoretical procession to DCCV.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; contrast ultrasound; left atrial appendage thrombus; transesophageal echocardiography; ultrasound enhancing agent (UEA).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Appendage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Atrial Appendage / pathology
  • Contrast Media*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal / methods*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thrombosis / pathology


  • Contrast Media