Tissue harmonic imaging in echocardiography: better valve imaging, but at what cost?
BACKGROUND: Tissue harmonic imaging (THI) improves echocardiographic image quality and is widely utilized. Unfortunately it also makes structures appear artificially thickened. We sought to examine its impact on the imaging of left-sided heart valves. METHODS: A large echocardiographic database was searched for full, standard transthoracic echocardiographic exams performed 12-month periods before (n = 3,786) and after (n = 3,914) transition to THI at a single institution. Patients with prosthetic valves were excluded. RESULTS: The mean age of patients was 63 +/- 17 years and 65% were men. No appreciable difference in demographics was observed between time periods. While inadequate visualization of the mitral valve was reduced by 30% using THI (P = 0.014), reports of leaflet thickening increased by 28% (P = 0.005). Similarly, inadequate aortic valve visualization was reduced by 53% with THI (P < 0.001), at the expense of more aortic sclerosis (+6%, P = 0.034). Among the 480 patients with echocardiograms using each modality (time interval between studies: 370 +/- 143 days), THI did not appreciably improve visualization of the either valve. Although no significant increase in mitral thickness was seen with THI, aortic sclerosis was increased by at least one grade in 24.5% (P < 0.006). CONCLUSION: This study suggests that while THI enhances imaging of difficult to visualize valves, it may overestimate mitral and aortic valve thickness. This could lead to overdiagnosis and unnecessary follow-up studies. Cardiologists interpreting THI echocardiograms should become familiar with the modality's shortcomings.
Hawkins, K; Henry, JS; Krasuski, RA
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