What is the role of echocardiography in the evaluation of pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2019
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Answer

This modality generally has limited accuracy in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Transesophageal echocardiography may identify central pulmonary embolism, and the sensitivity for central pulmonary embolism is reported to be 82%. Overall sensitivity and specificity for central and peripheral pulmonary embolism is 59% and 77%.

Echocardiography (ECHO) provides useful information. It may allow diagnosis of other conditions that may be confused with pulmonary embolism, such as pericardial effusion. ECHO allows visualization of the right ventricle and assessment of the pulmonary artery pressure. ECHO serves a prognostic function; the mortality rate is almost 10% in the presence of right ventricular dysfunction and 0% in the absence of right ventricular dysfunction. (Vanni et al reported that a right ventricular strain pattern is associated with a worse short-term outcome. [78] ) ECHO may be used to identify the presence of right-chamber emboli.


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