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Introduction: The 2012 HRS/EHRA/ECAS guidelines encourage pre-procedural transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) prior to ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF), but acknowledge a lack of consensus in patients maintained on therapeutic warfarin before, during and after the procedure. This is partly because the incidence of left atrial appendage (LAA) thrombus is so low, that it is hard to draw clear conclusion regarding the characteristics of patients who develop thrombus. We hypothesize that the presence of low LAA emptying velocities, which predisposes to thrombus, and/or thrombus itself can be predicted in patients undergoing ablation, based upon clinical characteristics and transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). Methods: In this multicentre study, we undertook TTE and transesophageal echocardiograms (TEE) in 586 patients (age 59.9±0.4 years old, 64.5% male) undergoing catheter ablation for AF who were anticoagulated on warfarin (target international normalized ratio 2-3.5) for ≥3 consecutive weeks prior to procedure and maintained on warfarin for the procedure. Results: Low peak LAA emptying velocities (<40cm/s) were identified in 111 (24.7%) patients and LAA thrombus was identified in 3 patients (0.5%) despite having therapeutic INRs. The 3 patients with thrombus had LAA emptying velocities of 23, 29 and 31 cm/s. None of the remaining patients had a peri-procedural stroke. Patients with peak LAA emptying velocities <40cm/s or thrombus on TEE had significantly (p<0.05) higher CHA2DS2-VASc scores (1.7± 0.1 v's 1.4±0.1), and were more likely to have impaired LVSF (odds ratio [95% CI]: 2.66 [1.52-4.66]), a LA diameter >4.6cm on TTE (2.40 [2.13-5.41]), or persistent AF (2.60 [1.63-4.14]) compared to those with a higher LAA velocity without thrombus. Conclusion: In patients on uninterrupted warfarin therapy, a CHA2DS2-VASc score ≥1 or LA diameter >4.6cm on TTE identifies 91.5% of those at risk of developing thrombus with LAA emptying velocity of <40 cm/s and 100% of those with thrombus in our cohort.

Original publication




Journal article


J Atr Fibrillation

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