The M-mode and two dimensional echocardiographic data of 62 consecutive cardiac patients referred from neurology centres were analysed retrospectively to establish the use of these techniques in detecting underlying cardiac pathology. All patients had presented initially to a neurologist with transient or permanent focal cerebral or retinal ischaemia, and had been referred for cardiac assessment after neurological investigations failed to establish the underlying cause of the neurological event. Patients were divided into two groups. In 30 patients the referring neurologist had found no evidence of cardiac disease (Group I); in the other 32 patients either heart disease or an arrhythmia had been diagnosed prior to cardiac referral (Group II). One of the patients in Group I had echocardiographic evidence of mitral valve prolapse not detected by the neurologist prior to referral; no cardiac pathology was recognised in the other 29 patients in this group. In seven of the 32 (22%) patients from Group II, a cardiac mass presumed responsible for the neurological manifestations was demonstrated echocardiographically, and in six of these histological confirmation was obtained following surgery or at necropsy. Two dimensional echocardiography was the only investigation which visualised the intracardiac pathology in four patients. In the remaining three patients, valve vegetations (two cases) and an atrial tumour (one case) were demonstrated by both echocardiographic methods. In patients with either clinical evidence of cardiac disease or an arrhythmia who have experienced one or more episodes of cerebral or retinal ischaemia, the presence of an intracardiac mass is not uncommon. Two dimensional echocardiography was the method of choice for detecting cardiac thrombus but the use of both methods of ultrasound should be considered as complementary techniques in the investigation of these cases. Routine echocardiography is unlikely to be of value in screening patients who have had a cerebrovascular event and who do not have clinical evidence of heart disease or an arrhythmia.
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