PURPOSE: Nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis can complicate various malignancies and may cause morbidity and mortality mainly as a result of systemic embolism. The antemortem diagnosis of nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis is rare. The purpose of our study was to assess the frequency, echocardiographic characteristics, and clinical correlation of nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis in cancer patients. PATIENTS AND METHODS: A prospective echocardiographic screening of 200 nonselected ambulatory patients with solid tumors was performed. Patients were evaluated for evidence of thromboembolic events and for plasma D-dimer levels. A cohort of 100 consecutive patients without overt heart disease referred to echocardiography for the detection of an occult arterial embolic source served as a control group. It consisted of 52 males and 48 females, median age 60 years. RESULTS: The study group included 87 women and 113 men, median age 64 years (range 21 to 91). The frequent malignancies were lymphoma (26%), carcinoma of the gastrointestinal tract (20%), and carcinoma of the lung (16%). Cardiac valvular vegetations were found in 38 patients (19%) compared with only in 2 patients in the control group (2%, P < 0.001). Vegetations were found on the mitral or on the aortic valve in 19 and 18 patients, respectively. Isolated tricuspid valve vegetation was found in 1 patient. Valvular lesions were mostly common in patients with carcinoma of the pancreas (3 of 6, 50%), carcinoma of the lung (9 of 32, 28%), and lymphoma (10 of 52, 19%). Thromboembolism was diagnosed in 22 (11%) patients (12 deep vein thrombosis, 4 emboli to extremities, 2 cerebrovascular accidents, and 4 'silent' segmental left ventricular wail motion abnormalities on echocardiography). Thromboembolism was noticed in 9 of 38 patients (24%) with vegetations compared with 13 of 162 patients without vegetations (8%; P = 0.O13). Plasma D-dimer level was examined in a subgroup of 170 patients. D- dimer level was increased in 19 of 21 patients (90%) with thromboembolism compared with 76 of 149 patients without thromboembolism (51%; P = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated a high prevalence of cardiac valvular lesions in patients with solid tumors. Vegetations were associated with thromboembolism. Plasma D-dimer level was significantly increased in patients with thromboembolism.
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