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Can J Cardiol. 2008 Jun;24(6):517-9.

The D-dimer assay: a possible tool in the evaluation of atrial thrombosis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Cardiology, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, USA.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia seen in clinical practice, and affects more than 4% of the population older than 60 years of age. Peripheral thromboembolism contributes significantly to the observed morbidity and mortality. Symptomatic AF, before cardioversion to normal sinus rhythm, requires either exclusion of atrial thrombi using transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) or the conventional use of three weeks of adequate anticoagulation. The exclusion of atrial thrombi by TEE, a nontomographic technique but comparable with conventional treatment of AF in outcomes, has inherent limitations due to the complex three-dimensional multilobed anatomy of the left atrial appendage, where the majority of atrial thrombi arise. Also, the conventional treatment of three weeks of therapeutic anticoagulation before cardioversion reportedly does not always eliminate atrial thrombi. Plasma D-dimer constitutes an antigen-antibody reaction to the dimeric final degradation product of a mature clot. An elevated fibrin D-dimer has a high sensitivity for intravascular thrombosis and, hence, may improve the evaluation of a patient with AF before cardioversion in addition to a TEE. A case is presented in which a positive D-dimer resulted in performing TEE to document atrial thrombosis and the complications of previous bacterial endocarditis. In the present case, this involved aortic root abscess formation and acute aortic regurgitation because of flailing of the noncoronary cusp that resulted in recurrent pulmonary edema.

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