To assess the occurence rate and major determinants of spontaneous echo contrast and to examine its impact on thromboembolic events and mortality in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, 86 hospitalized patients (73 men and 13 women, mean age 63 ± 11 years) with dilated cardiomyopathy who underwent transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiographic examinations were followed up for a mean of 20 ± 13 months. Spontaneous echo contrast was observed in 36 patients (42%) and was detected only with the transesophageal approach. It was seen in the left atrium in 33 patients, in both right and left atria in 1 patient, in both left atrium and left ventricle in 1 patient, and in the descending aorta in 1 patient. Spontaneous echo contrast was more frequent in the presence of atrial fibrillation (p < 0.05), left atrial enlargement (p < 0.02) and severely depressed left ventricular function (p < 0.01), but was less common in patients with moderate to severe mitral regurgitation (p < 0.05). This imaging phenomenon was the only significant independent predictor of intracardiac thrombus formation and previous and subsequent thromboembolic events. During follow-up, there were 26 deaths, and survival in patients with spontaneous echo contrast was significantly lower than in those without it (p < 0.02). A spontaneous echo contrast is commonly detected with transesophageal echocardiography in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy especially in the presence of atrial fibrillation, left atrial enlargement and severe left ventricular dysfunction. This imaging phenomenon represents an important marker for thromboembolic risk and may influence the treatment and clinical outcome of these patients.