Background: The effects of major lung resection on right heart function have not been well established. Our goal was to evaluate these effects using serial Doppler echocardiography in the perioperative period.
Methods: In 86 patients undergoing lobectomy (n = 47) and pneumonectomy (n = 39), we examined the effects of pulmonary resection on perioperative changes in right heart function by transthoracic echocardiography. Serial echocardiograms were performed preoperatively, on postoperative day 1, and again between postoperative days 2 and 6 (median, 3 days) to evaluate cardiovascular function and to estimate right ventricular systolic pressure by the tricuspid regurgitation jet Doppler velocity method.
Results: Right or left atrial size, right atrial pressure, and estimated right ventricular systolic pressure did not differ between groups on the preoperative or postoperative day 1 examinations. However, on postoperative days 2 through 6 patients who underwent pneumonectomy had higher (mean +/- standard deviation) right ventricular systolic pressure values than lobectomy patients (31 +/- 15 versus 25 +/- 10 mm Hg, respectively; p < 0.05 by analysis of variance). In the subset of patients with percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second less than 60% undergoing pneumonectomy (9/39), preoperative right ventricular systolic pressure was inversely correlated with percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second values (r = -0.78; p < 0.04). This correlation was not significant in corresponding lobectomy patients. Postoperative right ventricular enlargement determined by echocardiography occurred with similar frequency in both groups and was associated with poor short-term prognosis in patients in whom severe respiratory failure developed.
Conclusions: Preoperative indices of right heart function were within the normal range in both groups. Pneumonectomy but not lobectomy was associated with mild postoperative pulmonary hypertension that was not accompanied by significant right ventricular systolic dysfunction. Postoperative echocardiography may be useful to evaluate right heart function in critically ill patients after lung resection.