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Clot-causing heart pouch may raise stroke risk

20.01.2010
Discovery can aid efforts to prevent recurring strokes

UC Irvine cardiologists have found a pouchlike structure inside the heart's left atrial chamber that may be a potent source of stroke-causing blood clots.

About 80 percent of the 700,000-plus strokes that occur annually in the U.S. are due to blood clots blocking a brain artery. In up to a third of these cases, the clots' origin cannot be determined. Study co-author Dr. Subramaniam Krishnan said the discovery of this left atrial pouch could provide answers and inform neurologists' efforts to prevent stroke recurrences.

Krishnan and Dr. Miguel Salazar of UCI first spotted the pouch during autopsy research. Subsequent ultrasound and CT scans of patients' hearts confirmed the finding. The researchers estimate that the anatomical feature, which Krishnan likened to a kangaroo pouch, is present in 30 percent to 35 percent of individuals. Study results appear in the January issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions.

"The cul-de-sac nature of the heart pouch can promote stagnation of the blood, forming clots that can travel into the brain and cause a stroke," Krishnan said. "It was thought that the body of the left atrium was largely smooth and unlikely to be a source of blood clots, but we have found that not to be true for roughly one in three people."

Krishnan and UCI neurologist Dr. Mark Fisher are currently studying the prevalence of the left atrial pouch in patients who have already had strokes. "This finding points to a potentially important cause of strokes," Fisher said. "The presence of this pouch could change how neurologists treat these patients and lead to new therapeutic strategies for preventing strokes."

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County's largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.

Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.today.uci.edu
http://www.uci.edu

Further reports about: CT scans Clot-causing heart pouch ISDN UCI autopsy blood clots brain artery

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