Potential cardioembolic sources in an elderly population without stroke. A transthoracic and transoesophageal echocardiographic study in randomly selected volunteers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Transoesophageal echocardiography renders a better image than transthoracic echocardiography of cardiac changes especially at the atrial level, and of atherosclerotic changes in the aorta. Although several studies on stroke patients have included transthoracic and transoesophageal echocardiography, the relevance of the reported findings remains unclear because of limited information on the prevalence of cardiac changes related to cardioembolism in a control population without stroke. In order to define a non-hospitalized group of volunteers without previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack, we randomly selected a group of 68 volunteers (mean age 65.4 years). These volunteers were divided into two groups: the elderly group, 65 years or older (n = 38) and the younger group, younger than 65 years (n = 30). The subjects underwent transthoracic and transoesophageal echocardiography, sonography of the carotid arteries, and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. The prevalences of atrial septal aneurysm, patent foramen ovale, mitral annulus calcification, and protruding plaque in the aorta were investigated. We found atrial septal aneurysm in 13%, patent foramen ovale in 22%, protruding plaque in the aorta in 7%, and mitral annular calcification in 22% of the 68 subjects. No significant differences were found between the two age groups with the exception of mitral annular calcification, which was seen more often in the older group (P < 0.001). Total cardiac changes related to thromboembolism (including three cases with atrial fibrillation in the older group and other less common cardiac embolic sources) were more common in the older than in the younger group (23/38 vs 9/30; P < 0.05). If mitral annular calcification was excluded, no difference was found between the elderly and the younger group, 14/38 vs 8/30; ns. Even when subjects with a history of heart disease or a pathological ECG were omitted, no differences between the two age groups were found. The causal relationship between a possible embolic source and a clinical embolic event remains unsettled. The high prevalence of cardiac changes in a control population has to be considered when evaluating the significance of similar findings in patients with stroke.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems


  • Echocardiography, embolic sources, volunteers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1111
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1996