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J Biomech. 2001 Jul;34(7):951-60.

Limitations of Doppler echocardiography for the post-operative evaluation of aortic coarctation.

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Hydraulics Laboratory, Institute of Biomedical Technology, Ghent University, St-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, 9000, Ghent, Belgium.


Doppler blood flow measurements and derived pressure differences, through the Bernoulli equation, are used in the diagnosis of aortic coarctation, a congenital stenosis distal to the left subclavian artery. Doppler velocities remain elevated at the coarctation site after successful repair of coarctation, leading to high Doppler derived pressure differences without significant arm-leg pressure differences. We studied this apparent contradiction of two diagnostic methods, in vivo using patient and control data, and in vitro using a hydraulic model. Clinical and echocardiographic data from 31 patients, aged 13.0 +/- 4.0, 10.5 +/- 4.7 yr after coarctectomy by end-to-end anastomosis, and 18 age-matched healthy subjects were reviewed. Doppler peak velocities at the aortic isthmus were elevated in patients (2.2 +/- 0.4 vs. 1.2 +/- 0.2m/s, P < 0.001), corresponding to significant Doppler differences (20 +/- 7 mmHg), however, without significant arm-leg pressure differences. In all patients, a mild anatomic stenosis could still be observed. Local stiffness was increased. The hypothesis that the less distensible surgical scar in post-coarctectomy patients leads to a significant dynamic obstruction in systole was validated in a latex model of the aorta. Rigid rings (0.5-1.5 cm), matching the unloaded aortic diameter, were mounted around the aorta. Under loading conditions, Doppler peak velocities increased by 40 +/-7%, yielding Doppler differences of 21 +/- 3 mmHg, without a significant pressure drop. An alternative expression to calculate pressure differences, using both velocity and geometric information, was validated in the model. In conclusion, post-operatively, Doppler velocities remain elevated due to a mild anatomical and significant dynamic narrowing, but the specific geometry, resembling a tubular hypoplasia rather than an abrupt stenosis, permits an almost complete pressure recovery explaining the occurrence of Doppler differences in disagreement with the negligible arm-leg pressure difference.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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