Right-to-left interatrial shunt in ARDS: dramatic improvement in prone position

Intensive Care Med. 1999 Apr;25(4):412-4. doi: 10.1007/s001340050868.


The mechanisms leading to shunting through a patent foramen ovale include high right-sided cardiac pressures and respiratory factors due to mechanical ventilation and also anatomical changes in the right atrium as described in the platypnea-orthodeoxia syndrome. We report a patient with the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who had a right-to-left atrial shunt which decreased in the prone position, after which oxygenation improved. The patient was admitted to the intensive care unit because of ARDS due to an invasive fungal infection. He had a history of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and paradoxical embolisms through a patent foramen ovale. Despite mechanical ventilation and antifungal treatment he developed severe ARDS. He was therefore turned to the prone position. Blood gas values improved dramatically (arterial oxygen tension/fractional inspired oxygen ratio increasing from 59 to 278 torr). Transcranial Doppler sonography was performed with bubble study, which confirmed a massive right-to-left shunt in the supine position and which instantaneously decreased in the prone position. This case suggests that a decrease in right-to-left shunt in patients who have a patent foramen ovale could partly explain the improvement in hypoxemia in the prone position.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebral Arterial Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Arterial Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / complications
  • Male
  • Prone Position*
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / complications
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / therapy*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial