Use of two-dimensional echocardiography for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolus

J Emerg Med. 1998 Jan-Feb;16(1):5-8. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(97)00226-6.


We investigated the diagnostic utility of transthoracic echocardiogram (2-D ECHO) in identifying acute right heart strain in patients with suspected pulmonary embolus (PE) undergoing a pulmonary angiogram during their hospitalization. A retrospective case control study was conducted over a 3-year period at a tertiary, community teaching hospital. Patients were eligible if they had a pulmonary angiogram and a transthoracic echocardiogram. Cases were defined as an angiogram positive for PE and controls were defined as an angiogram negative for PE. We excluded cases in which the time interval between 2-D ECHO and angiogram was greater than 2 days. The 2-D ECHO was considered positive for right heart strain if two of the following were present: enlarged right ventricle, moderate or severe tricuspid regurgitation, increased right ventricular pressures, or paradoxical septal wall motion. We were able to identify 71 patients, of whom 24 met our criteria for PE. Of these, 13 had an echocardiogram consistent with our definition of acute right heart strain, for a sensitivity of 0.54. Forty-six of the 47 patients without PE did not have findings of acute right heart strain. The echocardiogram was positive in 14 patients, for a positive predictive value of 0.93. In seven patients with systolic blood pressures of less than 100 mmHg, five had a PE, all of whom met our criteria for acute right heart strain. We conclude that 2-D ECHOs show promise in identifying PE and hemodynamic compromise as a result of PE, and that further studies are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity