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Radiographics. 2014 Oct;34(6):1571-92. doi: 10.1148/rg.346135008.

Paradoxical embolism: role of imaging in diagnosis and treatment planning.

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From the Departments of Radiology (F.S., N.E., P.F.W., L.I., J.L.G.) and Cardiovascular Medicine (D.S.), University of Southern California, USC University Hospital, 1500 San Pablo St, Los Angeles, CA 90033; and Department of Human Anatomy, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain (D.S.Q.).

Erratum in

  • Radiographics. 2014 Nov-Dec;34(7):10A. Wu, Philip F [corrected to Wu, Phil F].


Paradoxical embolism (PDE) is an uncommon cause of acute arterial occlusion that may have catastrophic sequelae. The possibility of its presence should be considered in all patients with an arterial embolus in the absence of a cardiac or proximal arterial source. Despite advancements in radiologic imaging technology, the use of various complementary modalities is usually necessary to exclude other possibilities from the differential diagnosis and achieve an accurate imaging-based diagnosis of PDE. In current practice, the imaging workup of a patient with symptoms of PDE usually starts with computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to identify the cause of the symptoms and any thromboembolic complications in target organs (eg, stroke, peripheral arterial occlusion, or visceral organ ischemia). Additional imaging studies with modalities such as peripheral venous Doppler ultrasonography (US), transcranial Doppler US, echocardiography, and CT or MR imaging are required to detect peripheral and central sources of embolism, identify cardiac and/or extracardiac shunts, and determine whether arterial disease is present. To guide radiologists in selecting the optimal modalities for use in various diagnostic settings, the article provides detailed information about the imaging of PDE, with numerous radiologic and pathologic images illustrating the wide variety of features that may accompany and contribute to the pathologic process. The roles of CT and MR imaging in the diagnosis and exclusion of PDE are described, and the use of imaging for planning surgical treatment and interventional procedures is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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