Echocardiogram in the Evaluation of Hemodynamically Stable Acute Pulmonary Embolism: National Practices and Clinical Outcomes

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Societal guideline recommendations vary with regard to the role of routine trans-thoracic echocardiography to screen for right ventricular strain in patients with hemodynamically stable acute pulmonary embolism.


To characterize national patterns in use of early trans-thoracic echocardiography for the evaluation of patients with hemodynamically stable acute pulmonary embolism and determine associations between trans-thoracic echocardiography use and patient outcomes.


Retrospective cohort study using Premier, Inc. database of approximately 20% of patients hospitalized in the United States with hemodynamically stable acute pulmonary embolism between 2008 and 2011. Multivariable, risk-adjusted hierarchical regression models were used to evaluate hospital variation in use of trans-thoracic echocardiography for pulmonary embolism and associations between hospital trans-thoracic echocardiography rates and patient outcomes. Patient-level trans-thoracic echocardiography exposure was used in sensitivity analyses.


We identified 64,037 patients (mean age, 61.7 years; 54% women; 68% white) hospitalized at 363 U.S. hospitals. Trans-thoracic echocardiography rates for hemodynamically stable acute pulmonary embolism varied widely among hospitals (median trans-thoracic echocardiography rate, 41.4%; range, 0-89%; interquartile range, 32.7-51.7%). Hospital rates of trans-thoracic echocardiography were not associated with significant differences in risk-adjusted mortality (trans-thoracic echocardiography rate quartile 4 vs. quartile 1: odds ratio, 0.88; 95% confidence interval, 0.69-1.13) or use of thrombolytics (odds ratio, 1.28; 95% confidence interval, 0.84-1.96), but rates of intensive care unit admission (odds ratio, 1.57; 95% confidence interval, 1.18-2.07), hospital length of stay (relative risk, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.15), and costs (relative risk, 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-1.23) were significantly higher at hospitals with high trans-thoracic echocardiography rates. Analyses of patient-level trans-thoracic echocardiography exposure produced similar results, except with higher rates of thrombolysis (odds ratio, 5.58; 95% confidence interval, 4.40-7.09) and bleeding (odds ratio, 1.37; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-1.51) among patients receiving trans-thoracic echocardiography.


Trans-thoracic echocardiography use in the evaluation of patients with hemodynamically stable acute pulmonary embolism varied widely between hospitals. Hospitals with high rates of pulmonary embolism-associated trans-thoracic echocardiography use did not achieve different patient mortality outcomes but had higher resource use and costs. Our findings support the 2016 American College of Chest Physicians guidelines for management of pulmonary embolism, which recommend selective, rather than routine, use of trans-thoracic echocardiography to risk stratify patients with hemodynamically stable pulmonary embolism.

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