Pathophysiology of right ventricular failure

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Right ventricular failure may be defined as the inability of the right ventricle of the heart to provide adequate blood flow through the pulmonary circulation at a normal central venous pressure. Critical care specialists encounter right ventricular failure routinely in their practice, but until recently right ventricular failure as a primary clinical entity received scant consideration. Indeed, there is still not a single published practice guideline focused on right ventricular failure. Right ventricular failure is usually due to a combination of right ventricular pressure overload and contractile abnormalities of the right ventricular free wall. Decompensation may occur abruptly and catastrophically because of unique aspects of right ventricular physiology. This review will focus on the pathophysiology of acute right ventricular failure in the critical care setting and summarize the limited management options available.

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