The right atrium: gateway to the heart--anatomic and pathologic imaging findings
Knowledge of right atrial anatomic and pathologic imaging findings and associated clinical symptoms is important to avoid false-positive diagnoses and missed findings. Complete evaluation of the heart often requires a multimodality approach that includes radiography, echocardiography, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, and invasive angiography. In general, CT provides the highest spatial resolution of these modalities at the cost of radiation exposure to the patient. Echocardiography and MR imaging offer complementary and detailed information for functional evaluation without added radiation exposure. The advantages and disadvantages of each modality for the evaluation of right atrial anatomic structure, size, and pathologic findings are discussed. Cardiac MR imaging is the reference standard for evaluation of right atrial size and volume but often is too time consuming and resource intensive to perform in routine clinical practice. Therefore, established reference ranges for two-dimensional transthoracic echocardiography are often used. Right atrial pathologic findings can be broadly categorized into (a) congenital anomalies (cor triatriatum dexter, Ebstein anomaly, and aneurysm), (b) disorders of volume (tricuspid regurgitation, pathologic mimics such as a pseudoaneurysm, and atrial septal defect), (c) disorders of pressure (tricuspid stenosis, restrictive cardiomyopathy, and constrictive pericarditis), and (d) masses (pseudomasses, thrombus, lipomatous hypertrophy of the interatrial septum, lipoma, myxoma, sarcoma, and metastatic disease). Familiarity with each pathologic entity and its treatment options is essential to ensure that appropriate imaging modalities are selected. Online supplemental material is available for this article.