OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prognostic value of echocardiographic findings in patients who present with symptoms suggestive of acute pulmonary embolism. DESIGN: 317 patients with clinically suspected pulmonary embolism were prospectively evaluated by echocardiography for the presence of right ventricular afterload stress and right heart or pulmonary artery thrombi. Objective confirmation of pulmonary embolism by lung scan or pulmonary angiography was obtained in 164 (52%). The presence of deep venous thrombosis was established in 90 of 158 patients (57%) who underwent phlebographic or Doppler sonographic studies. RESULTS: Right ventricular afterload stress was diagnosed in 87 patients (27%). Objective confirmation of pulmonary embolism and diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis was more common in patients with right ventricular afterload stress than in those without (83% v 40% and 46% v 22%, respectively; P < 0.001). This was also true for the detection of thrombi in the right heart and major pulmonary arteries (12 patients v 1 patient; P < 0.001) as well as for the in-hospital mortality from venous thromboembolism (13% v 0.9%; P < 0.001). One year mortality from pulmonary embolism was 13% in patients with right ventricular afterload stress at presentation compared with 1.3% in those without (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The presence of right ventricular afterload stress detected by echocardiography is a major determinant of short term prognosis in patients with clinically suspected acute pulmonary embolism.
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