UC Irvine cardiologists have found a pouch-like structure inside the heart's left atrial chamber may be a potent source of stroke-causing blood clots.
Study co-author Dr. Subramaniam 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.
Writing in the January issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions, the researchers estimate that the anatomical feature, which Krishnan likened to a kangaroo pouch, is present in 30 percent to 35 percent of individuals.
"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."
"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."