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Abstract Aims  Altered left atrial (LA) blood flow characteristics account for an increase in cardioembolic stroke risk in atrial fibrillation (AF). Here, we aimed to assess whether exposure to stroke risk factors is sufficient to alter LA blood flow even in the presence of sinus rhythm (SR). Methods and results  We investigated 95 individuals: 37 patients with persistent AF, who were studied before and after cardioversion [Group 1; median CHA2DS2-VASc = 2.0 (1.5–3.5)]; 35 individuals with no history of AF but similar stroke risk to Group 1 [Group 2; median CHA2DS2-VASc = 3.0 (2.0–4.0)]; and 23 low-risk individuals in SR [Group 3; median CHA2DS2-VASc = 0.0 (0.0–0.0)]. Cardiac function and LA flow characteristics were evaluated using cardiac magnetic resonance. Before cardioversion, Group 1 displayed impaired left ventricular (LV) and LA function, reduced LA flow velocities and vorticity, and a higher normalized vortex volume (all P < 0.001 vs. Groups 2 and 3). After restoration of SR at ≥4-week post-cardioversion, LV systolic function and LA flow parameters improved significantly (all P < 0.001 vs. pre-cardioversion) and were no longer different from those in Group 2. However, in the presence of SR, LA flow peak and mean velocity, and vorticity were lower in Groups 1 and 2 vs. Group 3 (all P < 0.01), and were associated with impaired LA emptying fraction (LAEF) and LV diastolic dysfunction. Conclusion  Patients at moderate-to-high stroke risk display altered LA flow characteristics in SR in association with an LA myopathic phenotype and LV diastolic dysfunction, regardless of a history of AF.

Original publication




Journal article


European Heart Journal - Cardiovascular Imaging


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date





115 - 123