Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) is the most accessible noninvasive diagnostic procedure for the initial assessment of pediatric pulmonary hypertension (PH). This review focuses on principles and use of TTE to determine morphologic and functional parameters that are also useful for follow-up investigations in pediatric PH patients. A basic echocardiographic study of a patient with PH commonly includes the hemodynamic calculation of the systolic pulmonary artery pressure (PAP), the mean and diastolic PAP, the pulmonary artery acceleration time, and the presence of a pericardial effusion. A more detailed TTE investigation of the right ventricle (RV) includes assessment of its size and function. RV function can be evaluated by RV longitudinal systolic performance (e.g., tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion), the tricuspid regurgitation velocity/right ventricular outflow tract velocity time integral ratio, the fractional area change, tissue Doppler imaging-derived parameters, strain measurements, the systolic-to-diastolic duration ratio, the myocardial performance (Tei) index, the RV/left ventricle (LV) diameter ratio, the LV eccentricity index, determination of an enlarged right atrium and RV size, and RV volume determination by 3-dimensional echocardiography. Here, we discuss the potential use and limitations of TTE techniques in children with PH and/or ventricular dysfunction. We suggest a protocol for TTE assessment of PH and myocardial function that helps to identify PH patients and their response to pharmacotherapy. The outlined protocol focuses on the detailed assessment of the hypertensive RV; RV-LV crosstalk must be analyzed separately in the evaluation of different pathologies that account for pediatric PH.
Keywords: children; pulmonary hypertension; right ventricle.