Differentiating thrombus from pannus formation in obstructed mechanical prosthetic valves: an evaluation of clinical, transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiographic parameters

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998 Nov;32(5):1410-7. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(98)00385-4.


Objectives: We sought to determine the clinical and echocardiographic parameters that differentiate thrombus from pannus formation as the etiology of obstructed mechanical prosthetic valves.

Background: Distinction of thrombus from pannus on obstructed prosthetic valves is essential because thrombolytic therapy has emerged as an alternative to reoperation.

Methods: We analyzed clinical, transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) data in 23 patients presenting with 24 obstructed prosthetic valves and compared the findings to pathology at surgery.

Results: Fourteen valves had thrombus and 10 had pannus formation. Patients with thrombus had a shorter duration from time of valve insertion to malfunction, shorter duration of symptoms, but similar New York Heart Association functional class at the time of operation. Patients with thrombus had a lower rate of adequate anticoagulation (21% vs. 89%; p=0.0028). Pannus formation was more common in the aortic position (70% vs. 21%; p=0.035). Abnormal prosthetic valve motion was detected by TEE in all cases with thrombus formation but in 60% with pannus (p=0.0198). Thrombi were larger than pannuses (total length 2.8+/-2.47 cm vs. 1.17+/-0.43 cm; p=0.038). This was mostly due to extension of thrombi into the left atrium in prosthetic mitral valves. Thrombi appeared as a soft mass on the valve in 92% of cases, whereas 29% of pannuses had a soft echo density (p= 0.007). Ultrasound video intensity ratio, derived as the videointensity of the mass to that of the prosthetic valve, was lower in the thrombus group (0.46+/-0.14 vs. 0.71+/-0.17, p=0.006). A videointensity ratio of <0.70 had a positive predictive value of 87% and a negative predictive value of 89% for thrombus. Duration from onset of symptoms to reoperation of <1 month separated thrombus from pannus formation. The best objective clinical parameter for prediction of thrombus was inadequate anticoagulation, whereas the best TEE parameters were qualitative and quantitative ultrasound intensity of the mass. The presence of either inadequate anticoagulation or a soft mass by TEE improved the predictive power of either parameter alone and was similar to that of ultrasound videointensity ratio.

Conclusions: Duration of symptoms, anticoagulation status and qualitative and quantitative ultrasound intensity of the mass obstructing a mechanical prosthetic valve can help differentiate pannus formation from thrombus and may therefore be of value in refining the selection of patients for thrombolytic therapy of prosthetic valve obstruction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Valve / surgery
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Echocardiography, Doppler*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Valve Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Valve Diseases / surgery
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve / surgery
  • Prognosis
  • Prosthesis Failure*
  • Reoperation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thrombosis / etiology