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Curr Cardiol Rev. 2008 Feb;4(1):49-59. doi: 10.2174/157340308783565384.

Acute right ventricular failure in the setting of acute pulmonary embolism or chronic pulmonary hypertension: a detailed review of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Section of Pulmonary Hypertension, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


The right ventricle (RV) is integral to normal cardiac function, but receives little attention in the medical literature. The etiologic causes of acute RV failure often differ from those encountered in left ventricular dysfunction. Thus, RV failure frequently requires diagnostic procedures and management strategies that differ from those routinely used in the management of intrinsic left ventricular dysfunction. In this summary, the structure and function of the RV will be reviewed, concentrating on the pathophysiologic mechanisms behind the development of RV dysfunction. We will then focus on two distinct populations of patients who are at risk for acute RV failure: those with chronic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and those with acute pulmonary embolism. In chronic PAH, we will examine clinical circumstances common to hospitalized patients that may provoke acute RV decompensation, as well as pharmacologic therapies that are unique to RV failure management in PAH. Individuals with acute RV failure in the setting of pulmonary embolism represent a group with particularly high mortality, and the specific diagnostic and management strategies that are important for improved survival will be discussed.


Right ventricular failure; pulmonary embolism.; pulmonary hypertension; shock

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