The prognostic value of markers of right ventricular dysfunction in pulmonary embolism: a meta-analysis

Crit Care. 2011;15(2):R103. doi: 10.1186/cc10119. Epub 2011 Mar 28.


Introduction: In pulmonary embolism (PE) without hemodynamic compromise, the prognostic value of right ventricular (RV) dysfunction as measured by echocardiography, computed tomography (CT) or biological (natriuretic peptides) markers has only been assessed in small studies.

Methods: Databases were searched using the combined medical subject headings for right ventricular dysfunction or right ventricular dilatation with the exploded term acute pulmonary embolism. This retrieved 8 echocardiographic marker based studies (n = 1249), three CT marker based studies (n = 503) and 7 natriuretic peptide based studies (n = 582). A meta-analysis of these data was performed with the primary endpoint of mortality within three months after pulmonary embolism, and a secondary endpoint of overall mortality and morbidity by pulmonary embolism.

Results: Patients with PE without hemodynamic compromise on admission and the presence of RV dysfunction determined by echocardiography and biological markers were associated with increased short-term mortality (odds ratio (OR) ECHO = 2.36; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3-43; OR BNP = 7.7; 95% CI: 2.9-20) while CT was not (ORCT = 1.54-95% CI: 0.7-3.4). However, corresponding pooled negative and positive likelihood ratios independent of death rates were unsatisfactory for clinical usefulness in risk stratification.

Conclusions: The presence of echocardiographic RV dysfunction or elevated natriuretic peptides is associated with short-term mortality in patients with pulmonary embolism without hemodynamic compromise. In contrast, the prognostic value of RV dilation on CT has yet to be validated in this population. As indicated both by positive and negative likelihood ratios the current prognostic value in clinical practice remains very limited.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Echocardiography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Natriuretic Peptides / blood
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality
  • Pulmonary Embolism / physiopathology*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right* / blood
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right* / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers
  • Natriuretic Peptides