M mode and Doppler echocardiograms, apex cardiograms, and phonocardiograms were recorded in 50 patients with severe ventricular disease of varying aetiology to examine how left ventricular filling is disturbed by cavity dilatation. The size of the left ventricular cavity was increased in all with a mean (SD) transverse diameter of 7.2 (0.8) cm at end diastole and 6.3 (0.8) cm at end systole. All were in sinus rhythm and 35 had functional mitral regurgitation. In nine patients, in whom filling period was less than 170 ms, transmitral flow showed only a single peak, representing summation. In the remainder there was a strikingly bimodal distribution of filling pattern. In 12 the ventricle filled dominantly with atrial systole (A fillers). Isovolumic relaxation was long (75 (35) ms) and wall motion incoordinate; mitral regurgitation was present in only one. In most (29) the left ventricle filled predominantly during early diastole (E fillers). Mitral regurgitation, which was present in 26, was much more common than in the A fillers, while the isovolumic relaxation time (10 (24) ms) was much shorter and the normal phase relations between flow velocity and wall motion were lost. In 24 E fillers no atrial flow was detected. In four there was no evidence of any mechanical activity, suggesting "atrial failure". In 20, either the apex cardiogram or the mitral echogram showed an A wave, implying that atrial contraction had occurred but had failed to cause transmitral flow, showing that ventricular filling was fundamentally disturbed in late diastole. A series of discrete abnormalities of filling, beyond those shown by Doppler alone, could thus be detected in this apparently homogeneous patient group by a combination of non-invasive methods. The presence and nature of these abnormalities may shed light on underlying physiological disturbances.
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