USMLE Answer 52

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52. The correct answer is E. Systemic thromboembolism may develop in each of these patients. Vegetations associated with infective endocarditis may undergo fragmentation and result in systemic thromboembolism. Stasis develops in dilated ventricles, which predisposes to formation of thrombi attached to the ventricular walls (mural thrombi). Mural thrombi may also form within the left atrium in the presence of mitral valve prolapse. Thromboemboli may originate from mural thrombi.

Decreased compliance (choice A) is a pathophysiologic alteration present in a variety of cardiac disorders in which there is impediment to expansion or relaxation of ventricular walls, such as restrictive cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and constrictive pericarditis. This feature is not present in any of the conditions described in the question.

Depressed myocardial contractility (choice B) results from conditions that impair myocardial inotropism, such as dilated cardiomyopathy and ischemic heart disease. Depressed inotropism is not present in infective endocarditis or mitral valve prolapse.

Of the three conditions in the question stem, only infective endocarditis is definitely related to an infectious etiology (choice C), usually bacteria. Recall that mitral valve prolapse is due to myxomatous degeneration of the mitral valve, sometimes associated with Marfan syndrome. The etiology of dilated cardiomyopathy is heterogeneous, and most cases are idiopathic. Of the remaining cases, viral infections, toxic insults (especially alcohol), metabolic disorders (hemochromatosis), pregnancy, and genetic influences are the underlying causes.

Mitral valve stenosis (choice D) may develop as a result of vegetations forming on the mitral valve and occluding the valvular orifice. Endocarditis of the mitral valve more often leads to mitral insufficiency because of destruction of valve leaflets or rupture of chordae tendineae. On the contrary, both mitral valve prolapse (usually clinically silent) and dilated cardiomyopathy may lead to mitral valve insufficiency and regurgitation.