Essential echocardiographic evaluation in patients with suspected pulmonary hypertension: an overview for the practicing physician

Pedro E Vargas, Angel Lopez-Candales
Postgraduate Medicine 2016, 128 (2): 208-22
Prompt and accurate diagnosis of patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is of outmost importance as delays in identifying this clinical entity have detrimental effects on both morbidity and mortality. Initial noninvasive assessment of these patients has traditionally included a number of routine tests of which transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) has been shown to either confirm the presence of structural anomalies of the right ventricle (RV) indicative of PAH or exclude other potential causes of pulmonary hypertension (PH). Consequently, TTE has become a well-validated and readily available imaging tool not only used for this initial screening but also for routine follow-up of PH patients. Since chronic PH is known to unbalance the normal hemodynamic and mechanical homeostatic interaction between the RV and pulmonary circulation; the resulting response is that of an abnormal RV remodeling, clinically translated into progressive RV hypertrophy and dilatation. An enlarged and hypertrophied RV not only would eventually lose effective contractility but also this gradual decline in RV systolic function is the main abnormality in determining adverse clinical outcomes. Therefore, it is of outmost importance that TTE examination be comprehensive but most importantly accurate and reproducible. This review aims to highlight the most important objective measures that can be routinely employed, without added complexity, that will certainly enhance the interpretation and advance our understanding of the hemodynamic and mechanical abnormalities that PH exerts on the RV.

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