Right ventricular dilatation on bedside echocardiography performed by emergency physicians aids in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism

Background

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a disease entity with a high mortality rate, ranging from 2.5-33%. Frequently, its diagnosis is delayed or frankly missed and often it is only discovered during autopsy. Around 66% of deaths occur during the first hour of presentation and 75% of deaths during the initial hospitalization. The mechanism of morbidity/mortality for PE is thought to be secondary to right ventricle (RV) outflow obstruction, leading to circulatory collapse. Delays in diagnosis have been linked to issues with imaging (wait times, schedules), contrast in the setting of renal impairment, and poor IV access.

In the emergency department, it is not only critical to identify patients with PE, but also to identify those who are at risk for decompensation and poor outcomes. This can be accomplished by evaluating for signs of RV dysfunction which has been associated with RV failure, hemodynamic collapse, and death. Previous studies have shown that right ventricular dysfunction has been found in 27-40% of normotensive patients with PE. Well studied markers of RV dysfunction include elevated biomarkers [1], specific ECG findings (RBBB, tachycardia, S1Q3T3, anterior TWI, ST elevation aVR, atrial fibrillation) [2], and RV dysfunction on echocardiography [3]. While biomarkers and ECG are readily available to emergency providers (EP), these are less specific for the diagnosis of PE and bedside echocardiography may prove to be more useful for evaluation of PE and RV dysfunction.

Right Ventricular Dilatation on Bedside Echocardiography Performed by Emergency Physicians Aids in the Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism

Clinical Question

Does evaluation for right ventricular dilation by emergency physicians using bedside echocardiography add diagnostic value in the evaluation for suspected pulmonary embolism? 

Methods & Study Design

  • Design
    • Prospective observational study
  • Population
    • Using a “convenience sample” population of patients who presented to the ED at Boston Medical Center from June 2009 – August 2011, with a moderate to high suspicion (pretest probability) of having a PE.  Wells score 2, those receiving PE imaging (CT, angio, V/Q scan), or those who came in with diagnosis of PE.
  • Exclusion criteria 
    • Non-english speakers
    • Prisoners
  • Intervention
    • Transthoracic echocardiography (blinded of confirmatory results) was performed by 4 ED docs, 1 with advanced training in cardiac sonography.  The other 3 had standard 1-month residency rotation in ultrasound and a minimum of 25 cardiac ultrasounds; plus, 10 hours hands-on and 10 hours image review with principal investigator.
    • Data collection
      • 3 views recorded: parasternal short & long axis, and apical 4-chamber, with primary measurement being qualitative assessment of RV size vs. LV size. Normal ratio (0.6:1)
        • Dilation defined as >1:1 RV:LV ratio
        • RV length and diameter or qualitative distension of RV apex adjacent to LV apex also assessed
      • They also recorded: RV function (nl vs. hypokinetic), paradoxical septal motion, and presence of McConnell’s sign.
      • All image reads were reviewed by the PI.
      • ED RAs then used chart review to compare findings to confirmatory imaging
        • PE was categorized as proximal vs distal
        • Disposition of patient was also documented 
  • Outcomes
    • Diagnostic characteristics
      • Sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV, positive and negative likelihood ratios
    • Presence of advanced signs of RV dysfunction
      • Right ventricular hypokinesis [qualitatively assessed as normal or hypokinetic], paradoxical septal motion, and McConnell’s sign

Results

    • Final analysis
      • 146 patients included in study
      • 126 with moderate pretest probability
      • 20 with high pretest probability
      • 126 with normal RV:LV ratio, 17 with increased RV:LV ratio
      • 30 had PE, of these 15 also had increased RV:LV ratio
    • Presence of RV dilation test characteristics
      • Sensitivity 50% (95% CI 32% to 68%)
      • Specificity 98% (95% CI 95% to 100%), a positive predictive value of 88%
      • Positive Predictive Value 88%  negative predictive value of 88%
      • Negative Predictive Value 88% (95% CI 83% to 94%).
      • Positive Likelihood Ratio 29 (95% CI 6.1% to 64%)
      • Negative Likelihood Ratio 0.51 (95% CI 0.4% to 0.7%)
      • Good observer agreement 96%, independent 100%

Strengths & Limitations

  • Strengths
    • Good concordance of sens/spec with prior study observations, although higher sensitivity
    • Good intra-observer agreement/reliability
  • Limitations
    • Single location, young population (less chronic diseases leading to RV changes)
    • Operator skill may not generalize to other physicians, other EDs.  PI was very experienced sonographer.
    • Convenience sample leading to possible selection bias.
    • Secondary outcomes under-powered.

Author's Conclusions

The authors conclude that right ventricular dilatation on bedside echocardiography may help emergency physicians rule in pulmonary embolism more rapidly by raising a provider’s index of suspicion before definitive testing. They also note that this evidence supports the concept that patients with a moderate to high pretest probability for pulmonary embolism and a bedside echocardiography result showing right ventricular dilatation should be considered for anticoagulation before definitive testing.

Lastly, they also comment on severity of PE, noting that patients with signs of advanced right ventricular dysfunction on bedside echocardiography (right ventricular dilatation with right ventricular hypokinesis, McConnell’ s sign, or paradoxical septal motion), tends to occur in patients with a larger clot burden who are more likely to be admitted to an ICU setting or have in hospital mortality (though this study was not powered appropriately for this analysis).

Our Conclusions

 We agree with the author's conclusions of this study that EP performed bedside echocardiography is a useful adjunct in the evaluation of suspected PE, both in identification of PE as well as risk stratification. We know that delays in diagnosis/treatment can lead to worse outcomes, however with the ability of EPs to perform bedside echocardiography and identify right ventricular dilation, this may reduce the time to both of these endpoints. It also seems reasonable that in patients who are moderate to high risk for PE, whom have evidence of right ventricular dilation on bedside echocardiography,  be empirically treated with anticoagulation prior to definitive imaging, with the caveat that they have no high bleed risk.

The Bottom Line

Emergency physician performed bedside echocardiography can be used reliably to increase provider's index of suspicion for PE in patients demonstrating RV dilation; however, given its poor sensitivity, it should not be used as a screening tool for PE.

Authors

This post was written by Hector Guerrero, MS4 at UCSD. It was reviewed by Michael Macias, MD, Ultrasound Fellow at UCSD.

References

    1. Weekes AJ, e. (2017). Diagnostic Accuracy of Right Ventricular Dysfunction Markers in Normotensive Emergency Department Patients With Acute Pulmonary Embolism. - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26973178
    2. Shopp, J., Stewart, L., Emmett, T., & Kline, J. (2015). Findings From 12-lead Electrocardiography That Predict Circulatory Shock From Pulmonary Embolism: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Academic Emergency Medicine, 22(10), 1127-1137. doi:10.1111/acem.12769
    3. Dudzinski DM, e. (2017). Assessment of Right Ventricular Strain by Computed Tomography Versus Echocardiography in Acute Pulmonary Embolism. - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27664798
    4. Dresden S, e. (2017). Right ventricular dilatation on bedside echocardiography performed by emergency physicians aids in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24075286

Case # 6: Not Your Average Syncope

A 25 year old female presents to the emergency department with acute abdominal pain and a syncopal episode. She notes a positive home urine pregnancy test 1 week ago. She appears mildly uncomfortable with a tender abdomen. A bedside ultrasound is performed, a clip is shown below. What are the findings of the ultrasound clip and what is your diagnosis?

Vitals: T 98.7 HR 120 BP 95/72  RR 20 O2 98% on RA

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Owen, MD

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Owen, MD

Answer and Learning Point

Answer

The ultrasound clip demonstrates a large amount of free fluid between the spleen and the diaphragm. There is also a sliver of echogenic material above the capsule of the spleen suggestive of clotted blood. Morison’s pouch (not shown) was also noted to be significantly positive for free fluid. Given the patient’s unstable vitals and the clinical history, this was concerning for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. OB was consulted immediately and the patient was taken to the OR. The diagnosis of ruptured ectopic pregnancy was confirmed during laparotomy. The patient did well.

While the FAST exam has traditionally been used in trauma, there has been increasing use to diagnose intra-abdominal bleeding as a source of hypotension in medical patients. Specifically with regards to ectopic pregnancy, data has suggested that positive free fluid in Morison’s pouch is highly predictive of operative intervention with a positive likelihood ratio of 112 (Sens 50%, Spec 99.5) [1]. A retrospective study in 2001, looking at emergency medicine physician performed ultrasound, demonstrated that identifying patients with a suspected ectopic pregnancy and free fluid in Morison’s pouch decreased the time to diagnosis and treatment [2].

Learning Points

    • All women of childbearing age presenting with abdominal pain and syncope should be presumed to have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy until proven otherwise
    • Transabdominal ultrasound to evaluate for free fluid should be utilized by the emergency physician in cases of suspected ruptured ectopic pregnancy to assist with risk stratification and rapid diagnosis
    • As in trauma patients, evaluation for free fluid should be performed with the patient supine (or preferably Trendelenburg position as this increases the sensitivity of identifying free fluid in Morison’s pouch [3])
    • A curvilinear (preferred) or phased-array probe should be used to evaluate the abdomen for free fluid and it is critical to completely visualize the most inferior portion of Morison's Pouch, including the caudal tip of the liver & inferior renal pole, as this is where free fluid will collect first
    • A positive pregnancy test and positive free fluid in Morison’s pouch is essentially diagnostic of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy (though ruptured splenic artery aneurysm should also remain on your differential)

Author

This post was written by Michael Macias, MD, Ultrasound Fellow at UCSD.

References

    1. Moore C, Todd WM, O’Brien E. Free Fluid in Morison’s Pouch on Bedside Ultrasound Predicts Need for Operative Intervention in Suspected Ectopic Pregnancy. Acad Emerg Med. 2007; 14(8):755-8.
    2. Rodgerson JD, Heegaard WG, Plummer D, Hicks J, Clinton J, Sterner S. Emergency department right upper quadrant ultrasound is associated with a reduced time to diagnosis and treatment of ruptured ectopic pregnancies. Acad Emerg Med. 2001; 8:331–6.
    3. Abrams BJ, Sukumvanich P, Seibel R, Moscati R, Jehle D. Ultrasound for the detection of intraperitoneal fluid: the role of Trendelenburg positioning. Am J Emerg Med. 1999;17:(2)117-20.

Ultrasound use during cardiopulmonary resuscitation is associated with delays in chest compressions

Background

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has quickly become a core adjunct used in the emergency department (ED) during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Specifically, it is now frequently used to evaluate for reversible causes of cardiac arrest (i.e. cardiac tamponade, pulmonary embolism), guide resuscitation, and prognosticate on patient outcomes based on presenting cardiac activity [1]. However at this time, the benefits of the use of POCUS during CPR are not yet clear in terms of patient centered outcomes. What is known to have an effect on patient outcomes is providing high quality CPR, with minimal interruptions, and early defibrillation [2]. POCUS during CPR is often performed during pulse checks and it can take ample time to obtain sufficient views for proper interpretation. One concern is that this can result in unnecessary delays in resuming chest compressions during CPR, leading to harmful effects on patient outcomes.

Ultrasound use during cardiopulmonary resuscitation is associated with delays in chest compressions

 

Clinical Question

Does use of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in cardiopulmonary resuscitation lengthen the duration of pulse checks beyond the guideline recommendation of 10 seconds?

Methods & Study Design

  • Design
    • Prospective cohort study
  • Population
    • This was a single center study performed at an adult, urban, tertiary care, academic medical center
    • All patients, 18 years of age or older, who presented to the emergency department (ED) in cardiac arrest or in whom cardiac arrest occurred while in the ED were eligible for enrollment
  • Exclusion criteria 
    • No documentation of a pulse check
    • Not placed in one of three designated resuscitation rooms with continuous video monitoring capability
    • Video monitoring obtained was not available or image quality was too poor for extraction of data
  • Intervention
    • All cardiac arrest resuscitations were recorded by video camera
      • Researchers recorded the duration of pulse checks (in milliseconds) and whether POCUS was used
  • Outcomes
    • Duration of pulse checks with the use of POCUS

Results

    • 23 patients enrolled
    • 123 individual rhythm checks
    • The use of POCUS significantly increased the pulse-check duration by 8.4 seconds (95% CI, 6.7-10.0 [p<0.0001])
    • Age and BMI did not affect the duration of pulse checks or CPR interruptions
    • No findings on any of the POCUS images prompted a procedure
    • Survival to ED discharge/hospital admission: 35% (8/23)
    • Survival to hospital discharge: 4% (1/23)
    • Survival at 30 days: 4% (1/23)

Strengths & Limitations

  • Strengths
    • Data collected directly from video which removes any bias on recall of events that occurred during cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Limitations
    • Small number of patients included in the study
    • Single center study reduces its external validity
    • No information of level of training of US operators
    • No commentary on the impact of POCUS on mortality or neurologic outcomes

Author's Conclusions

"The use of POCUS during cardiac arrest resuscitation was associated with an increase in the duration of pulse checks by 8.4 seconds, causing interruptions in high-quality chest compressions nearly double the 10-second duration recommended by current international cardiopulmonary resuscitation guidelines. It is critical for acute care providers to pay close attention to the duration of CPR interruptions when using POCUS during cardiac arrest resuscitation."

Our Conclusions

With the introduction of novel indications for POCUS, we need to be aware of both the benefits and harms. This is an important study that identifies a potential harm of POCUS during CPR. There is no doubt from this data that POCUS did result in prolonged pulse checks above the guideline recommended 10 seconds. While this study does not directly tell us that POCUS increases mortality in cardiac arrest (as it is much too small), there is clear evidence that increased interruptions in chest compressions during CPR leads to worse outcomes.

The utility of this study is that it identifies a problem with POCUS in which there are clear solutions. With this new evidence, we must take a thoughtful approach to use of POCUS during CPR. Some proposed solutions to address this problem include:

    • Identifying personnel during CPR who can verbalize the time spent during pulse check to make providers acutely aware of when CPR should be resumed ("10, 9, 8, 7...")
    • Recording a POCUS clip for 5 seconds, then reviewing the stored images while CPR is resumed
    • Having a care provider ready to perform POCUS exam with probe on chest just before chest compressions are withheld
    • Use of transesophageal (TEE) POCUS which allows for image acquisition during ongoing CPR

The findings of this paper are definitely not the end of POCUS in CPR, as I find that there are numerous reasons that it is useful (i.e. monitoring of proper chest compression location, identification of reversible etiology of cardiac arrest, prognostication, closure for health care providers during end of resuscitations...), however I would like to see larger studies on this topic as well as quality improvement and awareness of this potential harm of prolonged pulse checks secondary to POCUS utilization.

The Bottom Line

The use of POCUS during CPR may increase the duration of pulse checks beyond the recommended 10 seconds. Care providers should be aware of this potential harm and measures should be taken to prevent unnecessary delays in chest compressions.

Authors

This post was written by Michael Macias, MD, Ultrasound Fellow at UCSD.

References

    1. Gaspari R, e. (2017). Emergency department point-of-care ultrasound in out-of-hospital and in-ED cardiac arrest. - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27693280
    2. Link MS et al. Part 7: Adult Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support: 2015 American Heart Association Guidelines Update for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2015 Nov 3;132(18 Suppl 2):S444-64.

    3. Huis In 't Veld MA, e. (2017). Ultrasound use during cardiopulmonary resuscitation is associated with delays in chest compressions. - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28754527

Case # 5: It’s Not Always Blood

A middle aged male s/p TURBT (transurethral resection of bladder tumor) 1 day ago presented with lower abdominal pain and no urine output from his foley catheter. A bladder scan was performed which was ~ 50 cc. What's the dx?

Vitals: T 98.7 HR 110 BP 117/70  RR 18 O2 98% on RA

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Answer and Learning Point

Answer

The image above is of Morrison's pouch, demonstrating significant free fluid within the peritoneal cavity. Given the recent TURBT and lack of urinary output from the patient's foley catheter, this suggests that the fluid identified is consistent with urine secondary to intraperitoneal bladder perforation. This was later confirmed by CT cystogram and shortly after the patient was taken to the operating room for definitive repair.

Learning Points

    • Bladder perforation from TURBT is relatively rare with an incidence of clinically significant perforations of 1.3%. Furthermore, intraperitoneal bladder perforation only accounts for ~17% of these, making it quite uncommon [1]. A small number of intraperitoneal bladder perforations are also associated with small bowel or colon injury [2].
    • While around 30% of bladder ruptures from TURBT are detected intraoperatively, the remainder present postoperatively (mean time to diagnosis of 6 days) with lower abdominal pain and/or decreased urine output [2].
    • CT cystogram is the gold standard for diagnosis of bladder perforation and can provide information on location of the perforation as well as whether it is intraperitoneal or extraperitoneal [3].
    • As demonstrated in the case above, ultrasound can be used as an imaging adjunct at the bedside to rapidly detect intraperitoneal fluid to expedite consultation with urologic services and definitive CT imaging.
    • The treatment of extraperitoneal perforation of the bladder is usually conservative via prolonged foley catheter drainage. For intraperitoneal lesions, open-surgical exploration and repair is recommended [1-2].
    • Emergency department management of these patients should consist of rapid diagnosis, broad spectrum antibiotic therapy, fluid resuscitation as needed, and urgent urological consultation.

Author

This post was written by Michael Macias, MD, Ultrasound Fellow at UCSD.

References

    1. Rausch S, e. (2017). [Transurethral resection of bladder tumors: management of complications]. - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=24806801
    2. Golan S, e. (2017). Transurethral resection of bladder tumour complicated by perforation requiring open surgical repair - clinical characteristics and oncological outc... - PubMed - NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20860654
    3. COMPLICATIONS OF TRANSURETHRAL RESECTION OF BLADDER TUMORS. Eric A. Singer MD, MA and Ganesh S. Palapattu MD. Complications of Urologic Surgery: Prevention and Management, Chapter 25, 295-302