To study left ventricular diastolic function in Chagas's disease, simultaneous echocardiograms, phonocardiograms, and apexcardiograms were recorded in 20 asymptomatic patients with positive Chagas's serology and no signs of heart disease (group 1), 12 with Chagas's heart disease and symptoms of ventricular arrhythmia but no heart failure (group 2), 20 normal subjects (group 3), and 12 patients with left ventricular hypertrophy (group 4). The recordings were digitised to determine left ventricular isovolumic relaxation time and the rate and duration of left ventricular cavity dimension increase and wall thinning. In groups 1 and 2 (a) aortic valve closure (A2) and mitral valve opening were significantly delayed relative to minimum dimension and were associated with prolonged isovolumic relaxation, (b) left ventricular cavity size was abnormally increased during isovolumic relaxation and abnormally reduced during isovolumic contraction, and (c) peak rate of posterior wall thinning and dimension increase were significantly reduced and duration of posterior wall thinning was significantly prolonged; both of these abnormalities occurred at the onset of diastolic filling. These abnormalities were more pronounced in group 2 and were accompanied by an increase in the height of the apexcardiogram "a" wave, an indication of pronounced atrial systole secondary to end diastolic filling impairment due to reduced left ventricular distensibility. Group 4, which had an established pattern of diastolic abnormalities, showed changes similar to those in group 2; however, the delay in aortic valve closure (A2) and in mitral valve opening and the degree of dimension change were greater in the latter group. Thus early isovolumic relaxation and left ventricular abnormalities were pronounced in the patients with Chagas's heart disease and may precede systolic compromise, which may become apparent in later stages of the disease. The digitised method is valuable in the early detection of myocardial damage.
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