A pitfall in ultrafast CT scanning for the detection of left atrial thrombi

J Comput Assist Tomogr. 1993 Jan-Feb;17(1):42-5. doi: 10.1097/00004728-199301000-00006.


We studied 41 patients with mitral stenosis by ultrafast CT (UFCT) and transesophageal echocardiography to detect left atrial thrombi. Cardiac UFCT was performed twice after contrast medium injection to obtain early (during injection lasting 40-60 s) and late (approximately 5 min after beginning injection) phase images. There were 10 patients (24%) in whom a filling defect detected in the early phase disappeared in the late phase. The site of filling defects was the left atrial appendage in nine patients and the left atrium in one patient. All of the filling defects were in the ventral side of the left atrium. Furthermore, all of those patients had chronic atrial fibrillation. Transesophageal echocardiography revealed no thrombus in the area of the filling defect in the early phase. We believe that blood stasis existed in those patients. This finding leads to a false-positive result when only early phase images are obtained. The diagnosis of thrombi should be made only when a filling defect is observed in both phases. Late phase scanning is necessary in the diagnosis of left atrial thrombi.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Function, Left
  • Cardiac Output
  • Echocardiography / methods
  • Esophagus
  • Female
  • Heart Atria / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Iopamidol / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve Insufficiency / diagnostic imaging
  • Mitral Valve Stenosis / physiopathology
  • Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Iopamidol