Transcranial Doppler for stratification of high-risk morphology of patent foramen ovale in patients with cryptogenic stroke

Heart Vessels. 2022 Dec;37(12):2119-2127. doi: 10.1007/s00380-022-02117-9. Epub 2022 Jun 14.


Microbubble testing using transcranial Doppler (TCD) is an important screening tool for diagnosing paradoxical cerebral embolism with high-risk PFO. However, little is known about the association between the microbubble test by TCD and the features of high-risk PFO evaluated by transesophageal echocardiography (TEE). We studied 101 consecutive patients at Showa University, from April 2019 to October 2020, who underwent both TCD and TEE with a sufficient Valsalva maneuver and who were strongly suspected by neurologists as cryptogenic stroke. According to the appearance of microbubbles as high-intensity transient signals (HITS), the TCD grade was stratified into three categories based on the criteria (A: none, no HITS, B: small; 1-10 HITS, and C: large; > 10 HITS, or an uncountable number of HITS). Among patients with RLS through the PFO in TEE, high-risk morphological features of PFO for cerebral embolism were evaluated as follows: (1) tunnel height, (2) tunnel length, (3) total excursion distance of the atrial septum into the right and left atrium, (4) existence of Eustachian valve or Chiari network, (5) angle of PFO from the inferior vena cava, and (6) large shunt (20 or more microbubbles). Of 101 patients (TCD grade; Group A = 49, Group B = 26, Group C = 26), RLS through PFO was detected in 37 patients (grade A = 8, grade B = 6, grade C = 23) by TEE. Among PFO-positive patients, tunnel height, length, total excursion distance into the right and left atria, angle of PFO from the inferior vena cava, and frequency of large shunt in TEE were significantly larger in grade C than in grade A and B (p < 0.05). Additionally, grade C patients had significantly more forms of high-risk PFOs than those in grades A and B when the six features of high-risk PFO were compared. A multivariate logistic regression demonstrated that the tunnel length of PFO and the presence of large shunt in TEE were independently associated with large HITS in TCD (odds ratio: 1.18 and 49.5, 95% confidence interval 1.043-1.337 and 10.05-244.3, p = 0.0086 and p < 0.0001, respectively). In conclusion, the existence of a large HITS detected by TCD may have a screening advantage in predicting the high-risk morphologies of PFO that can cause paradoxical cerebral embolism.

Keywords: Cryptogenic stroke; High-risk patent foramen ovale; Transcranial Doppler; Transesophageal echocardiography.

MeSH terms

  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent* / complications
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism* / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Embolism* / etiology
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Stroke* / etiology
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / adverse effects