Enlarged right ventricle without shock in acute pulmonary embolism: prognosis

Am J Med. 2008 Jan;121(1):34-42. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2007.06.032.


Objective: An unsettled issue is the use of thrombolytic agents in patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) who are hemodynamically stable but have right ventricular (RV) enlargement. We assessed the in-hospital mortality of hemodynamically stable patients with PE and RV enlargement.

Methods: Patients were enrolled in the Prospective Investigation of Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis II. Exclusions included shock, critical illness, ventilatory support, or myocardial infarction within 1 month, and ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation within 24 hours. We evaluated the ratio of the RV minor axis to the left ventricular minor axis measured on transverse images during computed tomographic angiography.

Results: Among 76 patients with RV enlargement treated with anticoagulants and/or inferior vena cava filters, in-hospital deaths from PE were 0 of 76 (0%) and all-cause mortality was 2 of 76 (2.6%). No septal motion abnormality was observed in 49 patients (64%), septal flattening was observed in 25 patients (33%), and septal deviation was observed in 2 patients (3%). No patients required ventilatory support, vasopressor therapy, rescue thrombolytic therapy, or catheter embolectomy. There were no in-hospital deaths caused by PE. There was no difference in all-cause mortality between patients with and without RV enlargement (relative risk=1.04).

Conclusion: In-hospital prognosis is good in patients with PE and RV enlargement if they are not in shock, acutely ill, or on ventilatory support, or had a recent myocardial infarction or life-threatening arrhythmia. RV enlargement alone in patients with PE, therefore, does not seem to indicate a poor prognosis or the need for thrombolytic therapy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Angiography / methods*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dilatation, Pathologic
  • Embolectomy / methods
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hospital Mortality / trends
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism / therapy
  • Shock
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Vena Cava Filters
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / diagnostic imaging
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / etiology*
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / therapy


  • Fibrinolytic Agents