HealthDay News — Motion-tracking magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the heart can help identify people with atrial fibrillation (AF) who are at high risk for stroke, a new study indicates. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, also calls into question the mechanism linking AF with higher stroke risk.

A team led by Hiroshi Ashikaga, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, performed MRI scans on 169 patients with AF, aged 49 to 69. Left atrial volume, emptying fraction, strain, and strain rate were assessed by tissue-tracking cardiac magnetic resonance.

The researchers determined that depressed left atrial reservoir function may be a sign of stroke risk. “Altered function in the left atrium of the heart may lead to stroke independently of the heart rhythm disturbance itself,” Joao Lima, MD, a professor of medicine and radiology at the medical school and director of cardiovascular imaging at Johns Hopkins Hospital, explained in a Hopkins news release. He and Ashikaga believe this altered heart chamber function could occur even in people without AF.

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“Our findings suggest that assessment of left atrial reservoir function can improve the risk stratification of cerebrovascular events in AF patients,” the authors write.


  1. Inoue YY et al. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015; doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.001844.