Non-ST-Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Guidelines, ICU, Resus

The latest AHA/ACC guidelines on NSTEACS have been published ahead of print in Circulation.

Full text is available, and the Executive Summary is available here

Amsterdam EA, Wenger NK, Brindis RG, Casey DE, Ganiats TG, Holmes DR, et al.
2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Non-ST-Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.
Circulation. 2014 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Profound hypothermia and no ECMO?

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Kids, Resus

CPRsnow2sm

Patients in cardiac arrest due to severe hypothermia benefit from extracorporeal rewarming, and it is often recommended that they are treated at centres capable of providing cardiopulmonary bypass or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

But what if they’re brought to a centre that doesn’t have those facilities?

If you work in such a centre do you have a plan, and are you familiar with what equipment you could use?

One option if you have an ICU is to provide extracorporeal warming using a haemofiltration machine used for renal replacement therapy(1). A double lumen haemofiltration catheter is inserted into a central vein and an ICU nurse can often do the rest, although some variables have to be set by the intensivist, often aided by a standard renal replacement therapy prescription chart. The machines are mobile and can be wheeled into the resus room (I have practiced this set up in resus). It might be worth discussing and practicing this option with your ICU.

Another extracorporeal option is to rig up a rapid infusion device such as a ‘Level 1′ to connect to arterial and venous catheters so that blood from the patient flows through and is warmed by the machine before being returned to the patient(2). Rapid rewarming has been achieved by this method but it requires some modification to the usual set up and so is much less likely to be a realistic option for most teams doing this on very rare occasions.

Less technical options are the traditionally taught warm saline lavage of body cavities such as the thorax and the peritoneal cavity. These can be achieved with readily available catheters and of course should be combined with ventilation with warmed gas and administration of warm intravenous fluid.

Thoracic lavage can be achieved with open thoracotomy or tube thoracostomy. One or two chest tubes can be placed on each side. One technique was described as:


Two 36 French chest tubes were placed in each hemithorax. One tube was placed in the fourth intercostal space in the mid-clavicular line. Another tube was placed into the sixth intercostal space in the mid-axillary line. Sterile saline at 39.0◦C was infused by gravity into each superior chest tube and allowed to drain passively through each inferior tube.(3)

Rapid rewarming at a rate of 6.8◦C per hour was achieved in an arrested hypothermic man using peritoneal lavage. It was done in the operating room with peritoneal lavage (saline 40◦C) with a rapid infusion system (Level 1) through two laparoscopic access sites. It was combined with external forced air rewarming and warm intravenous infusions(4).

Finally some devices manufactured for inducing hypothermia in post-cardiac arrest patients can also be used to rewarm patients, which might be endovascular devices, such as the Cool Line® catheter(5), or external, such as the Arctic Sun® Temperature Management System(6). It’s definitely worth finding out what your critical care services have as far as this equipment goes.

In summary, although the ‘exam answer’ for cardiac arrest due to profound hypothermia is often ECMO/cardiopulmonary bypass, in most centres that’s not an option. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that (1) other extracorporeal rewarming options exist and (2) non-extracorporeal techniques can provide rapid rewarming.

 

1. Spooner K, Hassani A. Extracorporeal rewarming in a severely hypothermic patient using venovenous haemofiltration in the accident and emergency department. J Accid Emerg Med. 2000 Nov;17(6):422–4. Full text

2. Gentilello LM, Cobean RA, Offner PJ, Soderberg RW, Jurkovich GJ. Continuous arteriovenous rewarming: rapid reversal of hypothermia in critically ill patients. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. 1992 Mar;32(3):316–25 PubMed

3. Plaisier BR. Thoracic lavage in accidental hypothermia with cardiac arrest — report of a case and review of the literature. Resuscitation. 2005 Jul;66(1):99–104. PubMed

4. Gruber E, Beikircher W, Pizzinini R, Marsoner H, Pörnbacher M, Brugger H, et al. Non-extracorporeal rewarming at a rate of 6.8°C per hour in a deeply hypothermic arrested patient. Resuscitation. 2014 Aug;85(8):e119–20. PubMed

5. Kiridume K, Hifumi T, Kawakita K, Okazaki T, Hamaya H, Shinohara N, et al. Clinical experience with an active intravascular rewarming technique for near-severe hypothermia associated with traumatic injury. Journal of Intensive Care. BioMed Central Ltd; 2014;2(1):11. link to abstract

6. Cocchi MN, Giberson B, Donnino MW. Rapid rewarming of hypothermic patient using arctic sun device. Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. 2012 Mar;27(2):128–30. PubMed

When to Stop Resuscitation

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Guidelines, ICU, Kids, Resus, Trauma

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My talk at the SmaccGOLD conference in March 2014

Cliff Reid – When Should Resuscitation Stop from Social Media and Critical Care on Vimeo.

Here are the slides:

Down with “down” time!

May 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

CPR-icon2A man in his 40s has a witnessed collapse and CPR is immediately started. Paramedics are on scene within 5 minutes and initiate advanced cardiac life support. He has refractory ventricular fibrillation which degenerates to asystole. He arrives in an emergency department where, with good ongoing CPR, he appears reasonably well perfused and even demonstrates some spontaneous movements and reactive pupils. He is placed on a mechanical CPR device and activation of the cardiac cath lab is requested. The patient has been in cardiac arrest now for 32 minutes. The cardiology fellow appears and asks: ‘what’s the down time?’

What’s the right answer? Would you say ‘half an hour’? ’32 minutes’?
And does it matter? Why is the cardiology fellow asking? Does she have an arbitrary cut off in mind, over which emergency coronary reperfusion will be denied?

I think there are several problems with conversations like these.
The first, is what does ‘down time’ even mean?
The second, is how relevant is a cardiac arrest time interval to prognosis in an individual patient?
The third, is what is the significance of any time interval in a patient who at the time of assessment has some signs that CPR is providing some perfusion and there is some evidence of brain function?

Let’s take the first. The definition of ‘down time’ does not appear to be standardised:

In this publication it appears to refer to the time before resuscitation is commenced, where it is demonstrated to be prognostically important.

Similarly, in this medical dictionary, it is defined as the ‘temporal duration from cardiac arrest until beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation or advanced cardiac life support.

However, a post in Life in the Fast Lane defines it as ‘time to return of spontaneous circulation

This appears to agree with The New South Wales Government’s Intensive Care Monitoring and Coordination Unit who define it as ‘the time from when a person’s heart stops beating to the time it starts beating again

Yet another definition is used in King County, Washington, where it is defined as ‘the time interval from collapse to call 911‘.

So the first thing is to clarify what we’re talking about: “This patient received immediate bystander CPR. He has had resuscitation for 32 minutes”. My friend in the UK, nurse resuscitationist Fernando Candal Carballido, coined the term ‘Time of Supported Circulation‘, or TOSC. I quite like this and think it could catch on.

The next question is so what? What if it was 90 minutes? At what point do we declare futility? This is where I believe the game has changed. Multiple survivors of prolonged resuscitation are springing up in the news and in the literature. Particularly in the subgroup of patients with minimal comorbidity, early CPR, and who receive circulatory support via ECMO or mechanical CPR while they undergo coronary reperfusion.

For a great example of a prolonged CPR survivor, check out paramedic Wayne Schneider’s story,

…or listen to Steven Bernard describe amazing results from ECMO used in Melbourne in the CHEER study, which includes survivors of over two hours of CPR.

So, in summary:

  • Be clear on your definitions when communicating with colleagues. ‘Down time’ does not appear to have a standard definition, so I would avoid its use.
  • Some patients without comorbidities who have had early bystander CPR may survive despite long periods of CPR (or ‘TOSC’), provided the underlying cause can be treated or is reversible.
  • ECMO and even more widely available mechanical CPR devices are extending the period in which these causes can be addressed.

Blood pressure target in septic shock

April 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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ABP-iconA study comparing mean arterial pressure (MAP) targets of 80 to 85 mm Hg (high-target group) with 65 to 70 mm Hg (low-target group) n 776 septic shock patients – the SEPSISPAM study – did not show a difference in the primary endpoint of 28 day mortality. Among patients with chronic hypertension, those in the high-target group required less renal-replacement therapy than did those in the low-target group. In my view this supports an approach that targets MAP based on the individual patient’s history rather than a blanket one-number-fits-all approach. The MAPs actually achieved in the low-target group were between 70-75 mm of Hg.

For a more thorough review check out the great PulmCCM blog.

High versus Low Blood-Pressure Target in Patients with Septic Shock.
N Engl J Med. 2014 Mar 18. [Epub ahead of print] Free Full Text


Background: The Surviving Sepsis Campaign recommends targeting a mean arterial pressure of at least 65 mm Hg during initial resuscitation of patients with septic shock. However, whether this blood-pressure target is more or less effective than a higher target is unknown.

Methods: In 31 emergency departments in the United States, we randomly assigned patients with septic shock to one of three groups for 6 hours of resuscitation: protocol-based EGDT; protocol-based standard therapy that did not require the placement of a central venous catheter, administration of inotropes, or blood transfusions; or usual care. The primary end point was 60-day in-hospital mortality. We tested sequentially whether protocol-based care (EGDT and standard-therapy groups combined) was superior to usual care and whether protocol-based EGDT was superior to protocol-based standard therapy. Secondary outcomes included longer-term mortality and the need for organ support.

Results: At 28 days, there was no significant between-group difference in mortality, with deaths reported in 142 of 388 patients in the high-target group (36.6%) and 132 of 388 patients in the low-target group (34.0%) (hazard ratio in the high-target group, 1.07; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 1.38; P=0.57). There was also no significant difference in mortality at 90 days, with 170 deaths (43.8%) and 164 deaths (42.3%), respectively (hazard ratio, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.83 to 1.30; P=0.74). The occurrence of serious adverse events did not differ significantly between the two groups (74 events [19.1%] and 69 events [17.8%], respectively; P=0.64). However, the incidence of newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation was higher in the high-target group than in the low-target group. Among patients with chronic hypertension, those in the high-target group required less renal-replacement therapy than did those in the low-target group, but such therapy was not associated with a difference in mortality.

Conclusions: Targeting a mean arterial pressure of 80 to 85 mm Hg, as compared with 65 to 70 mm Hg, in patients with septic shock undergoing resuscitation did not result in significant differences in mortality at either 28 or 90 days.

No Benefit From Early Goal Directed Therapy

March 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, Guidelines, ICU, Resus

The first of three major trials assessing early goal directed therapy (EGDT) in sepsis – the American ProCESS Trial – has been published.

It showed what many of us thought – that the specific monitoring via a central line of central venous oxygen saturation – was not necessary for improved survival.

However the trial randomised 1341 patients to one of three arms:
(1) protocolised EGDT
(2) protocol-based standard therapy that did not require the placement of a central venous catheter, administration of inotropes, or blood transfusions
(3) ‘usual care’ which was not standardised.

There were no differences in any of the primary or secondary outcomes between the groups.

Interestingly, in the six hours of early care that the trial dictated, the volume of intravenous fluids administered differed significantly among the groups (2.8 litres in the protocol-based EGDT group, 3.3 litres in the protocol-based standard-therapy group, and 2.3 litres in the usual-care group).

There was also a difference in the amount of vasopressor given, with more patients in the two protocol-based groups receiving vasopressors (54.9% in the protocol-based EGDT group, 52.2% in the protocol-based standard-therapy group, 44.1% in the usual-care group).

The use of intravenous fluids, vasopressors, dobutamine, and blood transfusions between 6 and 72 hours did not differ significantly among the groups.

Overall 60 day mortality was in the region of 20% for all groups.

What are the take home points here? Firstly, overall sepsis outcomes have improved over recent years, and early recognition and antibiotic administration may be the most important components of care. In the early emergency department phase of care, protocolised fluid and vasopressor therapy may not be as important as we thought. Good clinical assessment and regular review seem to be as effective and perhaps more important than any specific monitoring modality or oxygen delivery-targeted drug and blood therapy.

We all await the ARISE and ProMISE studies which may shed more light on the most important components of early sepsis care.

A Randomized Trial of Protocol-Based Care for Early Septic Shock
NEJM Mar 18 2014 (Full Text Link)


Background: In a single-center study published more than a decade ago involving patients presenting to the emergency department with severe sepsis and septic shock, mortality was markedly lower among those who were treated according to a 6-hour protocol of early goal-directed therapy (EGDT), in which intravenous fluids, vasopressors, inotropes, and blood transfusions were adjusted to reach central hemodynamic targets, than among those receiving usual care. We conducted a trial to determine whether these findings were generalizable and whether all aspects of the protocol were necessary.

Methods: In 31 emergency departments in the United States, we randomly assigned patients with septic shock to one of three groups for 6 hours of resuscitation: protocol-based EGDT; protocol-based standard therapy that did not require the placement of a central venous catheter, administration of inotropes, or blood transfusions; or usual care. The primary end point was 60-day in-hospital mortality. We tested sequentially whether protocol-based care (EGDT and standard-therapy groups combined) was superior to usual care and whether protocol-based EGDT was superior to protocol-based standard therapy. Secondary outcomes included longer-term mortality and the need for organ support.

Results: We enrolled 1341 patients, of whom 439 were randomly assigned to protocol-based EGDT, 446 to protocol-based standard therapy, and 456 to usual care. Resuscitation strategies differed significantly with respect to the monitoring of central venous pressure and oxygen and the use of intravenous fluids, vasopressors, inotropes, and blood transfusions. By 60 days, there were 92 deaths in the protocol-based EGDT group (21.0%), 81 in the protocol-based standard-therapy group (18.2%), and 86 in the usual-care group (18.9%) (relative risk with protocol-based therapy vs. usual care, 1.04; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.82 to 1.31; P=0.83; relative risk with protocol-based EGDT vs. protocol-based standard therapy, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.88 to 1.51; P=0.31). There were no significant differences in 90-day mortality, 1-year mortality, or the need for organ support.

Conclusions: In a multicenter trial conducted in the tertiary care setting, protocol-based resuscitation of patients in whom septic shock was diagnosed in the emergency department did not improve outcomes

Use a table for selecting PEEP in ARDS

March 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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PEEPtable.001Selecting the right amount of PEEP to recruit collapsed alveoli in patients with ARDS is important but the best method isn’t proven. Using a table to select PEEP based on FiO2 was significantly but weakly associated with improved lung recruitability (on CT scan) when compare with other methods of selecting PEEP, and was the best method for avoiding higher PEEP in patients with lower recruitability.

This is a small study and the results do not necessarily translate to improved clinical outcomes, but they may be of interest to emergency and retrieval medicine physicians who require a simple and safe strategy when managing ARDS patients without the luxury of time or of access to highly sophisticated ICU ventilators.

Bedside selection of positive end-expiratory pressure in mild, moderate, and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome
Crit Care Med. 2014 Feb;42(2):252-64


OBJECTIVE: Positive end-expiratory pressure exerts its effects keeping open at end-expiration previously collapsed areas of the lung; consequently, higher positive end-expiratory pressure should be limited to patients with high recruitability. We aimed to determine which bedside method would provide positive end-expiratory pressure better related to lung recruitability.

DESIGN: Prospective study performed between 2008 and 2011.
SETTING: Two university hospitals (Italy and Germany).

PATIENTS: Fifty-one patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

INTERVENTIONS: Whole lung CT scans were taken in static conditions at 5 and 45 cm H2O during an end-expiratory/end-inspiratory pause to measure lung recruitability. To select individual positive end-expiratory pressure, we applied bedside methods based on lung mechanics (ExPress, stress index), esophageal pressure, and oxygenation (higher positive end-expiratory pressure table of lung open ventilation study).

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Patients were classified in mild, moderate and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome. Positive end-expiratory pressure levels selected by the ExPress, stress index, and absolute esophageal pressures methods were unrelated with lung recruitability, whereas positive end-expiratory pressure levels selected by the lung open ventilation method showed a weak relationship with lung recruitability (r = 0.29; p < 0.0001). When patients were classified according to the acute respiratory distress syndrome Berlin definition, the lung open ventilation method was the only one which gave lower positive end-expiratory pressure levels in mild and moderate acute respiratory distress syndrome compared with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (8 ± 2 and 11 ± 3 cm H2O vs 15 ± 3 cm H2O; p < 0.05), whereas ExPress, stress index, and esophageal pressure methods gave similar positive end-expiratory pressure values in mild, moderate, and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome. The positive end-expiratory pressure selected by the different methods were unrelated to each other with the exception of the two methods based on lung mechanics (ExPress and stress index).

CONCLUSIONS: Bedside positive end-expiratory pressure selection methods based on lung mechanics or absolute esophageal pressures provide positive end-expiratory pressure levels unrelated to lung recruitability and similar in mild, moderate, and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, whereas the oxygenation-based method provided positive end-expiratory pressure levels related with lung recruitability progressively increasing from mild to moderate and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The ‘Magic Eye®’ method of rhythm assessment

February 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

Are you someone who tries to determine whether an ECG trace is ‘irregularly irregular’ by drawing little dots on a piece of paper level with the R waves to see if they are evenly spaced? I’d done that for years until I read this fantastic suggestion, which I’ve been following for over a year now.

In the 1990s there was a popular series of posters and books called ‘Magic Eye‘. These contained a ‘random dot autostereogram‘ which appeared as a mish-mash of coloured dots, but when you stared at it for a while the illusion of a 3D image would emerge. They looked a bit like this (although this one won’t work at such reduced resolution):

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dr Broughton and colleagues from Cambridge, UK, discovered that this technique, which involves forcing a divergent gaze to get repeating patterns to appear to overlap, can be applied to an ECG trace.

Stereoviewing an ECG trace causes successive QRS complexes to visually overlap and produce a new image. As Broughton and colleagues point out:

When achieved, this will lead to one of three outcomes. Entirely regular rhythms will ‘click’ into place as a new image at fixed depth. Rhythms with only mild irregularity may be stereoviewable, and if so, will appear to show successive QRS complexes at subtly varying depths. Rhythms with marked irregularity will not be stereoviewable, instead (in our experience) merely giving the viewer sore eyes after several failed viewing attempts.”

The authors assert that this can be applied to continuous ECG monitors, although unless you are really good at stereoviewing while moving your head/eyes horizontally, you should really freeze the trace on the screen first.

The ‘Magic Eye®’ method of rhythm assessment
Anaesthesia. 2012 Oct;67(10):1170-1

Not finding a difference doesn’t prove equivalence

January 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

Image from http://www.physio-control.com/

The recent LINC trial was a randomised controlled trial comparing a mechanical chest compression device (LUCAS) with manual CPR(1). “No significant difference” was found for any of the main outcome measures considered.

So do you think the LINC trial demonstrated that mechanical CPR using the LUCAS device is equivalent, or at least not inferior, to manual CPR?

This was an interesting and important trial for those of us who manage prehospital cardiac arrest patients. In some social media discussions, it appears to have been interpreted by some as evidence that they are equivalent resuscitative techniques or that LUCAS is not inferior to manual CPR.

LINCdata

However, unless you see a p-value less than 0.05 in the table above, (issues of multiple hypotheses testing aside) no evidence of anything was demonstrated; not of difference and certainly not of equivalence. When faced with 2-sided p values >5%, investigators often conclude that there is “no difference” between the treatments, leading to an assumption among readers that the treatments are equivalent. A better conclusion is that there is “no evidence” of a difference between treatments (see opinion piece by Sackett, 2004(2)). In order to determine if treatments are equivalent, equivalence must be tested directly.

How can we test for equivalence?
First, we must define equivalence. It is crucial that this definition is provided a priori i.e. defined before the data are examined. As the focus of the LINC study was on superiority the investigators did not offer an a priori definition of equivalence. However, the CIRC study(3), conducted some time earlier and similar in design, did. (This study examined an alternative mechanical CPR device, the Zoll AutoPulse).

When establishing equivalence between treatments, instead of the more customary null hypothesis of no difference between treatments, the hypothesis that the true difference is equal to a specified ‘delta’ (δ) is tested (4).

To analyse the LINC results to look for equivalence, we can derive our delta values from the CIRC study, which as we’ve said did offer an a priori definition of equivalence. For the purpose of illustration, we will use the risk-difference stopping boundaries calculated for the CIRC study, rather than the odds ratio based equivalence margins, on the grounds of greater simplicity and clinical appropriateness. Therefore, we set our equivalence margins at -δ=-1.4% and δ=1.6%, meaning, where LUCAS fared no worse than manual CPR by 1.4% and no better by 1.6%, we will consider the two techniques equally efficacious. Thus, we will declare equivalence between LUCAS and manual CPR if the 2-sided 95% CI for the treatment difference lies entirely within -1.4% and 1.6%, and noninferiority if the one-sided 97.5% CI for the treatment difference (equivalent to the lower limit of the two-sided 95% CI) lies above -1.4%. (5).

These concepts and how they differ from a traditional comparison are more readily appreciated graphically (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Two one-sided test procedure and the equivalence margin in equivalence/noninferiority testing between LUCAS and manual CPR

1a Traditional comparative study, such as the LINC trial, shows results with confidence intervals that show no evidence of a difference as they encompass 0.

LINCtradcomp

1b. Using equivalence margins (-δ and δ) derived from a similar study (CIRC), we show that the LINC trial does not demonstrate that LUCAS and manual CPR are equally efficacious, since the 95% CI do not lie completely within the equivalence margins.

LINCequiv
1c. The one sided CI lies above -δ for some outcomes, allowing us to declare non-inferiority on those measures.
LINCnoninf

Conclusion
The presentation of the LINC trial’s results shows no evidence of a difference in outcomes between mechanical and manual CPR, which is not the same as showing they are equivalent or that mechanical CPR is non-inferior. However if we re-examine their data using equivalence margins (-δ, δ) derived from a similar study (CIRC), there is some evidence that the LUCAS device is not inferior to manual CPR (but not necessarily equivalent) with respect to longer term good neurological outcome.

References

1. Rubertsson S, Lindgren E, Smekal D, er al. Mechanical Chest Compressions and Simultaneous Defibrillation vs Conventional Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest
JAMA. 2014 Jan 1;311(1):53-61

2. Sackett D. Superiority trials, non-inferiority trials, and prisoners of the 2-sided null hypothesis
Evid Based Med 2004;9:38-39 [Open Access]

3. Lerner EB, Persse D, Souders CM, et al. Design of the Circulation Improving Resuscitation Care (CIRC) Trial: a new state of the art design for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest research
Resuscitation. 2011 Mar;82(3):294-9

4. Dunnett CW, Gent M. Significance testing to establish equivalence between treatments, with special reference to data in the form of 2X2 tables. Biometrics. 1977 Dec;33(4):593-602

5. Piaggio G, Elbourne DR, Pocock SJ, et al. Reporting of noninferiority and equivalence randomized trials: extension of the CONSORT 2010 statement. JAMA. 2012;308(24):2594-604. [Open Access]

Does RV enlargement on echo predict PE?

January 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

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A nice paper from Annals of Emergency Medicine showing the test characteristcs of some of the common signs we look for on basic 2D echo that suggest the presence of (sub)massive pulmonary embolism:

Right Ventricular Dilatation on Bedside Echocardiography Performed by Emergency Physicians Aids in the Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism
Ann Emerg Med. 2014 Jan;63(1):16-24


STUDY OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the diagnostic performance of right ventricular dilatation identified by emergency physicians on bedside echocardiography in patients with a suspected or confirmed pulmonary embolism. The secondary objective included an exploratory analysis of the predictive value of a subgroup of findings associated with advanced right ventricular dysfunction (right ventricular hypokinesis, paradoxical septal motion, McConnell’s sign).

METHODS: This was a prospective observational study using a convenience sample of patients with suspected (moderate to high pretest probability) or confirmed pulmonary embolism. Participants had bedside echocardiography evaluating for right ventricular dilatation (defined as right ventricular to left ventricular ratio greater than 1:1) and right ventricular dysfunction (right ventricular hypokinesis, paradoxical septal motion, or McConnell’s sign). The patient’s medical records were reviewed for the final reading on all imaging, disposition, hospital length of stay, 30-day inhospital mortality, and discharge diagnosis.

RESULTS: Thirty of 146 patients had a pulmonary embolism. Right ventricular dilatation on echocardiography had a sensitivity of 50% (95% confidence interval [CI] 32% to 68%), a specificity of 98% (95% CI 95% to 100%), a positive predictive value of 88% (95% CI 66% to 100%), and a negative predictive value of 88% (95% CI 83% to 94%). Positive and negative likelihood ratios were determined to be 29 (95% CI 6.1% to 64%) and 0.51 (95% CI 0.4% to 0.7%), respectively. Ten of 11 patients with right ventricular hypokinesis had a pulmonary embolism. All 6 patients with McConnell’s sign and all 8 patients with paradoxical septal motion had a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. There was a 96% observed agreement between coinvestigators and principal investigator interpretation of images obtained and recorded.

CONCLUSION: Right ventricular dilatation and right ventricular dysfunction identified on emergency physician performed echocardiography were found to be highly specific for pulmonary embolism but had poor sensitivity. Bedside echocardiography is a useful tool that can be incorporated into the algorithm of patients with a moderate to high pretest probability of pulmonary embolism.

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