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Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;68(3):277-91. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.01.027. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

Diagnostic Accuracy of Right Ventricular Dysfunction Markers in Normotensive Emergency Department Patients With Acute Pulmonary Embolism.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC. Electronic address:
Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC.



We determine the diagnostic accuracy of goal-directed echocardiography, cardiac biomarkers, and computed tomography (CT) in early identification of severe right ventricular dysfunction in normotensive emergency department patients with pulmonary embolism compared with comprehensive echocardiography.


This was a prospective observational study of consecutive normotensive patients with confirmed pulmonary embolism. Investigators, blinded to clot burden and biomarkers, performed qualitative goal-directed echocardiography for right ventricular dysfunction: right ventricular enlargement (diameter greater than or equal to that of the left ventricle), severe right ventricular systolic dysfunction, and septal bowing. Brain natriuretic peptide and troponin cutoffs of greater than or equal to 90 pg/mL and greater than or equal to 0.07 ng/mL and CT right ventricular:left ventricular diameter ratio greater than or equal to 1.0 were also compared with comprehensive echocardiography.


One hundred sixteen normotensive pulmonary embolism patients (111 confirmed by CT, 5 by ventilation-perfusion scan) were enrolled. Twenty-six of 116 patients (22%) had right ventricular dysfunction on comprehensive echocardiography. Goal-directed echocardiography had a sensitivity of 100% (95% confidence interval [CI] 87% to 100%), specificity of 99% (95% CI 94% to 100%), positive likelihood ratio (+LR) of 90.0 (95% CI 16.3 to 499.8), and negative likelihood ratio (-LR) of 0 (95% CI 0 to 0.13). Brain natriuretic peptide had a sensitivity of 88% (95% CI 70% to 98%), specificity of 68% (95% CI 57% to 78%), +LR of 2.8 (95% CI 2.0 to 3.9), and -LR of 0.17 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.43). Troponin had a sensitivity of 62% (95% CI 41% to 80%), specificity of 93% (95% CI 86% to 98%), +LR of 9.2 (95% CI 4.1 to 20.9), and -LR of 0.41 (95% CI 0.24 to 0.62). CT had a sensitivity of 91% (95% CI 72% to 99%), specificity of 79% (95% CI 69% to 87%), +LR of 4.3 (95% CI 2.8 to 6.7), and -LR of 0.11 (95% CI 0.03 to 0.34).


Goal-directed echocardiography was highly accurate for early severe right ventricular dysfunction identification and pulmonary embolism risk-stratification. Brain natriuretic peptide was sensitive but less specific, whereas troponin had lower sensitivity but higher specificity. CT had good sensitivity and moderate specificity.

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