Background: Patients hospitalized in medical ICUs (MICUs) with acute noncardiac illnesses have an undefined prevalence of underlying cardiovascular abnormalities. Because of the acuteness of illness, the need for frequent concurrent mechanical ventilation, and the nature of the underlying diseases, routine cardiac examination may be suboptimal for identifying concurrent cardiac abnormalities.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to utilize transthoracic echocardiography and Doppler echocardiography interrogation to identify the range and prevalence of occult cardiac abnormalities that may be present in patients admitted to an MICU.
Methods: Over a 12-month period, 500 consecutive patients who had been admitted to the MICU of a large university tertiary care center underwent complete two-dimensional echocardiography and Doppler scanning within 18 h of admission. The final study population comprised 467 patients. No study subject had been admitted to the MICU for a primary cardiac diagnosis. Cardiovascular abnormalities were prospectively defined, and all echocardiograms were interpreted independently by blinded observers. Both MICU and overall mortality rates as well as length of stay were compared to the presence or absence of cardiac abnormalities.
Results: One or more cardiac abnormalities was noted in 169 patients (36%). The average (+/-SD) age of patients in the study was 52 +/- 17 years (age range, 17 to 100 years), and the average age was 57 +/- 18 years (age range, 18 to 93 years) in patients with underlying cardiac abnormalities. A single cardiac abnormality was noted in 103 patients (22%), two cardiac abnormalities were noted in 34 patients (7.2%), and three or more cardiac abnormalities were noted in 32 patients (6.8%). Based on subsequent requests for cardiac diagnostic studies, 67 patients (14.3%) were clinically suspected of having significant cardiovascular abnormalities, 39 of whom (58%) had one or more cardiac abnormalities on seen on echocardiography. Cardiac abnormalities were unsuspected in 130 of 169 patients (77%) and were only noted at the time they underwent surveillance echocardiography. Although there was no correlation between the presence of cardiac abnormalities and mortality, both MICU and hospital length of stay were increased in patients with cardiac abnormalities.
Conclusion: A significant proportion of patients admitted to an MICU with noncardiac illness have underlying cardiac abnormalities, which can be detected with surveillance echocardiography at the time of admission. Cardiac abnormalities were associated with an increased length of stay but not with increased mortality.