Echocardiography in the Risk Assessment of Acute Pulmonary Embolism: Controversies and Evolving Concepts in Deep Venous Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism

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Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and is classified as massive (high risk), submassive (intermediate risk), or nonmassive (low risk) based on the hemodynamic status and clinical characteristics of the patient. At this time, the management of patients with submassive PE remains controversial and approaches for improving risk assessment are critical. In this review, we discuss several echocardiographic methods to assess right heart function that may aid in the risk assessment of patients with acute PE. They range from qualitative assessments of right ventricular (RV) function, such as subjective RV function and McConnell sign, to more recently developed quantitative parameters of RV function, such as tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion, RV/left ventricular ratio, and RV global and free wall longitudinal strain. Because of their reproducibility and objective nature, quantitative RV echocardiographic assessments have been gaining importance in the assessment of acute PE. Current limitations to the use of echocardiography for risk assessment in acute PE are the lack of normative values for RV parameters, the absence of standardization of measurements across different ultrasound platforms, and the heterogeneity of the performance of echocardiographic examinations and reports across centers.

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