Volume 41 (2000) Issue 4 Pages 451-462
To assess right atrial appendage (RAA) flow and its possible relationship to left atrial appendage (LAA) flow in chronic nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF), transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) was performed in 26 patients with chronic nonvalvular AF (group I). For the purpose of comparison, an additional group of 27 patients with chronic valvular AF due to mitral stenosis (group II) was analyzed. The clinically estimated duration of AF in group I was significantly longer than that of group II (8.7 ± 3.4 versus 2.7 ± 1.1 years). Although right atrial size and RAA maximal area were larger in group I than those in group II, left atrial size was larger in group II than that in group I. Group II had larger LAA maximal areas than group I, but this difference did not reach statistical significance. The two groups were not different with respect to the RAA or LAA emptying velocities. Significant correlations were observed between echocardiographic parameters of the two atria in patients with nonvalvular AF (r range, 0.4 to 0.7). In contrast, in patients with valvular AF, no correlation was observed between the echocardiographic parameters of the two atria (appendage emptying velocity, r = 0.38, p = 0.051; atrial size, r = - 0.03, p = 0.89; maximal appendage area, r = 0.07, p = 0.75, respectively). There were no significant differences in the presence of right and left atrial spontaneous echo contrast and thrombus between the groups. All of the right and left atrial thrombi were confined to their respective appendages and were found in the atria with spentaneous echo contrast. Both RAA and LAA thrombi were present in one patient. In conclusion, our findings suggest that AF could affect both atria equally in nonvalvular AF, in contrast to valvular AF. Therefore, the assessment of RAA function as well as LAA may be important in patients with chronic nonvalvular AF.