The characteristics and clinical implications of left atrial appendage (LAA) flow have not been clearly analyzed. Thirty-nine consecutive patients underwent a transesophageal echocardiographic (TEE) color Doppler study to correlate the LAA pulsed Doppler flow pattern with echocardiographic variables and the cardiac rhythm of each patient. Three different LAA flow patterns were identified. Type I flow, characterized by a biphasic pattern (waves of filling and emptying), was found in 17 patients, all in sinus rhythm; it was not associated with LAA spontaneous contrast or thrombus. Mean peak velocities of the filling and emptying waves were, respectively: 28 +/- 12 cm/sec and 31 +/- 9 cm/sec. Type II sawtooth active flow (eight patients) (mean peak velocity: 49 +/- 12 cm/sec) was only detected in atrial fibrillation (AF) and dilated LAA (LAA area: 421 +/- 40 mm2) but without thrombus or significant LAA spontaneous echocardiographic contrast. Type III flow pattern was noted in 14 patients with AF and a very dilated LAA (LAA area: 619 +/- 96 mm2). This flow pattern was characterized by the absence of identifiable flow waves and was associated with the presence of LAA spontaneous contrast; the majority (six of seven) had evidence of thrombus. We concluded that the LAA is a dynamic structure in which TEE study identified three flow patterns with different implications. AF is associated with two LAA flow types (II and III) with a larger LAA size as well as a higher incidence of LAA clots in type III flow.