Atrial Appendage Thrombosis Risk Is Lower for Atrial Flutter Compared with Atrial Fibrillation

Published:November 08, 2017DOI:



      The risk of stroke and thromboembolism in atrial fibrillation is established. However, the evidence surrounding the risk of thromboembolism in patients with atrial flutter is not as clear. We hypothesized that atrial flutter would have indicators of less risk for thromboembolism compared with atrial fibrillation on transesophageal echocardiography, thereby possibly leading to a lower stroke risk.


      A retrospective review of 2225 patients undergoing transesophageal echocardiography was performed. Those with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter were screened. Exclusion criteria were patients being treated with chronic anticoagulation, the presence of a prosthetic valve, moderate to severe mitral regurgitation or stenosis, congenital heart disease, or a history of heart transplantation. A total of 114 patients with atrial fibrillation and 55 patients with atrial flutter met the criteria and were included in the analysis.


      Twelve patients (11%) in the atrial fibrillation group had left atrial appendage thrombus versus zero patients in the atrial flutter group (P < .05). The prevalence of spontaneous echocardiography contrast was significantly higher and left atrial appendage emptying velocity was significantly lower in the atrial fibrillation group compared with the atrial flutter group (P < .001). No spontaneous contrast was seen when the left atrial appendage emptying velocity was >60 cm/sec.


      Patients with atrial flutter have a lower incidence of left atrial appendage thrombi, higher left atrial appendage emptying velocity, and less left atrial spontaneous contrast compared with patients with atrial fibrillation, suggesting a lower risk for potential arterial thromboembolism.


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