Category Archives: ICU

Stuff relevant to patients on ICU

Palpating neonatal tracheal tubes

infant-intubate-iconAfter neonatal intubation, the incidence of malposition of the tip of the tracheal tube is fairly high.
A technique was evaluated involving palpation of the tube tip in the suprasternal notch, which in this small study was superior to insertion length based on a weight-based nomogram.
The suprasternal notch was chosen because it anatomically corresponds to vertebral level T2, close to the optimal position at the mid-tracheal point. Correct position on the chest radiograph was defined as any position <0.5 cm above the interclavicular midpoint and more than 1 cm above the carina.
During tracheal tube placement, the tip was gently palpated in the suprasternal notch with the index or little finger of the left hand while holding the body of the tube with the fingers of the right hand. The tube tip was adjusted until the bevelled edge was just palpable in the the suprasternal notch.
Digital palpation of endotracheal tube tip as a method of confirming endotracheal tube position in neonates: an open-label, three-armed randomized controlled trial.
Paediatr Anaesth. 2013 Oct;23(10):934-9
[EXPAND Abstract]

OBJECTIVE: To compare the malposition rates of endotracheal tubes (ETTs) when the insertional length (IL) is determined by a weight-based nomogram versus when IL is determined by palpation of the ETT tip.

DESIGN: Open-label, randomized controlled trial (RCT).

SETTING: Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

SUBJECTS: All newborn babies admitted in NICU requiring intubation.

INTERVENTIONS: Subjects were randomly allocated to one of three groups, wherein IL was determined by (i) weight-based nomogram alone, (ii) weight-based nomogram combined with suprasternal palpation of ETT tip performed by specially trained neonatology fellows, or (iii) combination of weight-based and suprasternal methods by personnel not specially trained.

PRIMARY OUTCOME: Rate of malposition of ETT as judged on chest X-ray (CXR).

RESULTS: Fifty seven babies were randomized into group 1(n = 15), group 2 (n = 20), and group 3 (n = 22). The proportion of correct ETT placement was highest in group 2, being 66.7%, 83.3%, and 66.7% in groups 1 through 3, respectively (P value = 0.58). No complication was attributable to palpation technique.

CONCLUSION: Suprasternal palpation shows promise as a simple, safe, and teachable method of confirming ETT position in neonates.


Atropine for Paediatric RSI?

paedRSIdrugiconIn some areas it has been traditional to pre-medicate or co-medicate with atropine when intubating infants and children, despite a lack of any evidence showing benefit. It is apparently still in the American Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Provider Manual when age is less than 1 year or age is 1–5 years and receiving succinylcholine. However it is not recommended with rapid sequence intubation in the British and Australasian Advanced Paediatric Life Support manual and course.
A French non-randomised observational study compares intubations with and without atropine in the neonatal and paediatric critical care setting. Atropine use was associated with significant acceleration of heart rate, and no atropine use was associated with a higher incidence of new dysrhythmia, the most common being junctional rhythm, but with none appearing to be clinically significant.
The incidence of the most important peri-intubation cause of bradycardia – hypoxia – is not reported. It is also not clear how many intubation attempts were required. The authors admit:
it is not possible using our methodology to deduce whether bradycardia was due to hypoxia, laryngoscopy, or sedation drugs.
Actual rapid sequence was rarely employed – their use of muscle relaxants was low – making this difficult to extrapolate to modern emergency medicine / critical care practice.
My take home message here is that this study provides no argument whatsoever for the addition of atropine in routine RSI in the critically ill child. Why complicate a procedure with an unnecessary tachycardia-causing drug when the focus should be on no desat / no hypotension / first look laryngoscopy?
The Effect of Atropine on Rhythm and Conduction Disturbances During 322 Critical Care Intubations
Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2013 Jul;14(6):e289-97
[EXPAND Abstract]

OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were to describe the prevalence of arrhythmia and conduction abnormalities before critical care intubation and to test the hypothesis that atropine had no effect on their prevalence during intubation.

DESIGN: Prospective, observational study.

SETTING: PICU and pediatric/neonatal intensive care transport.

SUBJECTS: All children of age less than 8 years intubated September 2007-2009. Subgroups of intubations with and without atropine were analyzed.


MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 414 intubations were performed in the study period of which 327 were available for analysis (79%). Five children (1.5%) had arrhythmias prior to intubation and were excluded from the atropine analysis. Atropine was used in 47% (152/322) of intubations and resulted in significant acceleration of heart rate without provoking ventricular arrhythmias. New arrhythmias during intubation were related to bradycardia and were less common with atropine use (odds ratio, 0.14 [95% CI, 0.06-0.35], p < 0.001). The most common new arrhythmia was junctional rhythm. Acute bundle branch block was observed during three intubations; one Mobitz type 2 rhythm and five ventricular escape rhythms occurred in the no-atropine group (n = 170). Only one ventricular escape rhythm occurred in the atropine group (n = 152) in a child with an abnormal heart. One child died during intubation who had not received atropine.

CONCLUSIONS: Atropine significantly reduced the prevalence of new arrhythmias during intubation particularly for children over 1 month of age, did not convert sinus tachycardia to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, and may contribute to the safety of intubation.


High Flow Nasal Cannulae In Paediatric Retrieval

High Flow Nasal Cannulae (HFNC) oxygen therapy was introduced in paediatric interfacility retrievals undertaken by the Mater Children’s PICU Retrieval Team in Queensland, Australia. In 793 under 2 year olds, HFNC was associated with a reduction in infants receiving invasive or non-invasive ventilation. 77% of the patients had bronchiolitis.
The rationale for this treatment is explained as:

Owing to the inherent properties of the infant respiratory system with small airways and high chest compliance, the risk of developing atelectasis is high in bronchiolitis. HFNC therapy applied early in the disease process may prevent progression of the disease and maintain normal lung volumes, thereby preventing atelectasis. As a result, the functional residual capacity can be maintained and work of breathing reduced, which may stabilize the patient sufficiently to avoid the need for intubation. For this purpose we used flow rates of 2 L/kg/min which have been shown to result in a positive end-expiratory pressure of 4–5 cmH2O

Read more on high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy.
High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) support in interhospital transport of critically ill children
Intensive Care Med. 2014 Feb 15. [Epub ahead of print]
[EXPAND Abstract]

BACKGROUND: Optimal respiratory support for interhospital transport of critically ill children is challenging and has been scarcely investigated. High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy has emerged as a promising support mode in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), but no data are available on HFNC used during interhospital transport. We aimed to assess the safety of HFNC during retrievals of critically ill children and its impact on the need for invasive ventilation (IV).
METHODS: This was a retrospective, single-centre study of children under 2 years old transported by a specialized paediatric retrieval team to PICU. We compared IV rates before (2005-2008) and after introduction of HFNC therapy (2009-2012).
RESULTS: A total of 793 infants were transported. The mean transport duration was 1.4 h (range 0.25-8), with a mean distance of 205 km (2-2,856). Before introduction of HFNC, 7 % (n = 23) were retrieved on non-invasive ventilation (NIV) and 49 % (n = 163) on IV. After introduction of HFNC, 33 % (n = 150) were retrieved on HFNC, 2 % (n = 10) on NIV, whereas IV decreased to 35 % (n = 162, p < 0.001). No patients retrieved on HFNC required intubation during retrieval, or developed pneumothorax or cardiac arrest. Using HFNC was associated with a significant reduction in IV initiated by the retrieval team (multivariate OR 0.51; 95 % CI 0.27-0.95; p = 0.032).
CONCLUSIONS: We report on a major change of practice in transport of critically ill children in our retrieval system. HFNC therapy was increasingly used and was not inferior to low-flow oxygen or NIV. Randomized trials are needed to assess whether HFNC can reduce the need for IV in interhospital transport of critically ill children.


Blood pressure target in septic shock

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
[EXPAND Abstract]

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

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)
[EXPAND Abstract]

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

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
[EXPAND Abstract]

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.


i-STAT® analysis of intraosseous aspirate

In the absence of vascular access we may resort to sending intraosseous aspirates for analysis, but in some laboratories there is concern that the samples can block autoanalysers.
A study on haematology/oncology patients undergoing diagnostic bone marrow aspiration showed clinically acceptable agreement between venous and intraosseous measurements for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose using an an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser.
Key points are:

  • The first 1-2 ml should be discarded (as in this study)
  • Lactate hasn’t been assessed
  • These patients weren’t critically ill

Analysis of bloodgas, electrolytes and glucose from intraosseous samples using an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser
Resuscitation. 2014 Mar;85(3):359-63
[EXPAND Abstract]

BACKGROUND: Intraosseous access is used in emergency medicine as an alternative when intravenous access is difficult to obtain. Intraosseous samples can be used for laboratory testing to guide treatment. Many laboratories are reluctant to analyse intraosseous samples, as they frequently block conventional laboratory equipment. We aimed to evaluate the feasibility and accuracy of analysis of intraosseous samples using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser.

METHODS: Intravenous and intraosseous samples of twenty children presenting for scheduled diagnostic bone marrow aspiration were analysed using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser. Sample types were compared using Bland Altman plots and by calculating intraclass correlation coefficients and coefficients of variance.

RESULTS: The handheld i-STAT(®)point-of-care analyser proved suitable for analysing intraosseous samples without technical difficulties. Differences between venous and intraosseous samples were clinically acceptable for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose in these haemodynamically stable patients. The intraclass correlation coefficient was excellent (>0.8) for comparison of intraosseous and intravenous base excess, and moderate (around 0.6) for bicarbonate, sodium and glucose. The coefficient of variance of intraosseous samples was smaller than that of venous samples for most variables.

CONCLUSION: Analysis of intraosseous samples with a bedside, single-use cartridge-based analyser is feasible and avoids the problem of bone marrow contents damaging conventional laboratory equipment. In an emergency situation point-of-care analysis of intraosseous aspirates may be a useful guide to treatment.


Is 4 Joules per kg enough in kids?

glash-sim-paed-face-smResearchers from the Iberian-American Paediatric Cardiac Arrest Study Network challenge the evidence base behind defibrillation shock dose recommendations in children.
In a study of in-hospital pediatric cardiac arrest due to VT or VF, clinical outcome was not related to the cause or location of arrest, type of defibrillator and waveform, energy dose per shock, number of shocks, or cumulative energy dose, although there was a trend to better survival with higher doses per shock. 50% of children required more than the recommended 4J per kg and in over a quarter three or more shocks were needed to achieve defibrillation.
Shockable rhythms and defibrillation during in-hospital pediatric cardiac arrest
Resuscitation. 2014 Mar;85(3):387-91
[EXPAND Abstract]

OBJECTIVE: To analyze the results of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that included defibrillation during in-hospital cardiac arrest (IH-CA) in children.

METHODS: A prospective multicenter, international, observational study on pediatric IH-CA in 12 European and Latin American countries, during 24 months. Data from 502 children between 1 month and 18 years were collected using the Utstein template. Patients with a shockable rhythm that was treated by electric shock(s) were included. The primary endpoint was survival at hospital discharge. Univariate logistic regression analysis was performed to find outcome factors.

RESULTS: Forty events in 37 children (mean age 48 months, IQR: 7-15 months) were analyzed. An underlying disease was present in 81.1% of cases and 24.3% had a previous CA. The main cause of arrest was a cardiac disease (56.8%). In 17 episodes (42.5%) ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (pVT) was the first documented rhythm, and in 23 (57.5%) it developed during CPR efforts. In 11 patients (27.5%) three or more shocks were needed to achieve defibrillation. Return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) was obtained in 25 cases (62.5%), that was sustained in 20 (50.0%); however only 12 children (32.4%) survived to hospital discharge. Children with VF/pVT as first documented rhythm had better sustained ROSC (64.7% vs. 39.1%, p=0.046) and survival to hospital discharge rates (58.8% vs. 21.7%, p=0.02) than those with subsequent VF/pVT. Survival rate was inversely related to duration of CPR. Clinical outcome was not related to the cause or location of arrest, type of defibrillator and waveform, energy dose per shock, number of shocks, or cumulative energy dose, although there was a trend to better survival with higher doses per shock (25.0% with <2Jkg(-1), 43.4% with 2-4Jkg(-1) and 50.0% with >4Jkg(-1)) and worse with higher number of shocks and cumulative energy dose.

CONCLUSION: The termination of pediatric VF/pVT in the IH-CA setting is achieved in a low percentage of instances with one electrical shock at 4Jkg(-1). When VF/pVT is the first documented rhythm, the results of defibrillation are better than in the case of subsequent VF/pVT. No clear relationship between defibrillation protocol and ROSC or survival has been observed. The optimal pediatric defibrillation dose remains to be determined; therefore current resuscitation guidelines cannot be considered evidence-based, and additional research is needed.


The 'Magic Eye®' method of rhythm assessment

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

Does RV enlargement on echo predict PE?

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
[EXPAND Abstract]

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.