Variability of Doppler Microembolic Signal Counts in Patients With Prosthetic Cardiac Valves
Background and Purpose The purpose of this study was the evaluation of intraobserver, interobserver, and intrasubject variability in the Doppler detection of microembolic signals in patients with mechanical prosthetic valves. Simultaneously, the feasibility of automated embolus detection by means of a neuronal network was investigated.
Methods From 25 patients with mechanical prosthetic heart valves, single transcranial Doppler monitoring sessions of 30 minutes’ duration were recorded on videotape, randomized, and subsequently analyzed by eight independent trained observers from three centers. Three observers evaluated these tapes on three separate occasions, blinded to their previous results. An additional 48 patients with prosthetic heart valves were repetitively monitored with transcranial Doppler ultrasonography for 30 minutes three times within 1 year to examine the long-term variability in the occurrence of microembolic signals. Finally, in an effort to assess the short-term intrasubject variability, 20 patients were examined for 90 minutes, and the results of the three 30-minute periods were compared. The interobserver, intraobserver, and intrasubject (both short- and long-term) variability was evaluated.
Results No significant differences in microembolic signal counts were found among the different observers, between the human observers and the neuronal network, or among the three separate evaluations of stored data by the same observer. The same was true for repeat examinations of the same patient (P>.05, Student’s two-paired t test and Friedman’s test).
Conclusions The detection of microembolic signals in patients with prosthetic cardiac valves is a reproducible technique. The reliable performance of the neuronal network argues for a broader use of this device. The intrasubject stability of the microembolic rate over 1 year supports the concept that the underlying emboligenic process is associated with intrinsic mechanical properties of the valve implant and not due to a thromboembolic process in the heart.
- Received October 20, 1994.
- Revision received December 8, 1994.
- Accepted December 9, 1994.
- Copyright © 1995 by American Heart Association