Study objectives: To evaluate the diagnostic value of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) as an initial diagnostic tool in shocked patients. The second objective was to study therapeutic impact of intrapulmonary thrombolysis in patients with diagnosed massive pulmonary embolism.
Design: Prospective observational study.
Setting: Medical ICU in 800-bed general hospital.
Patients: Twenty-four consecutive patients with unexplained shock and distended jugular veins.
Measurements and main results: In 18 patients, right ventricular dilatation with global or segmental hypokinesis was documented. In addition, central pulmonary thromboemboli (12 patients), reduced contrast flow in right pulmonary artery (one patient), and right ventricular free wall akinesis (one patient) were found. No additional echocardiographic findings were apparent in four patients. According to pulmonary scintigraphy or autopsy, sensitivity of TEE for diagnosis of massive pulmonary embolism (MPE) in patients with right ventricular dilatation was 92% and specificity was 100%. In patients without right ventricular dilatation, left ventricular dysfunction (four patients) or cardiac tamponade (two patients) was confirmed. Intrapulmonary thrombolysis was evaluated in 11 of 13 patients with MPE. Two patients died prior to attempted thrombolysis. Three patients received streptokinase and eight received urokinase. Twenty-four hours after beginning of treatment, total pulmonary resistance index significantly decreased for 59% and mean pulmonary artery pressure for 31%. Cardiac index increased for 74%. Nine of 11 patients receiving thrombolysis survived to hospital discharge.
Conclusion: Bedside TEE is a valuable tool for diagnosis of MPE. It enables immediate intrapulmonary thrombolysis, which seems to be an effective therapeutic alternative in our group of patients with obstructive shock.