The systolic pulmonary artery pressure (PAPs) can be accurately estimated, non-invasively, using continuous-wave Doppler (CWD) ultrasound measurement of the peak velocity of a tricuspid regurgitant (TR) jet.
However, it is often difficult to obtain adequate tricuspid regurgitation signals for measurement of PAPs, what could lead to its underestimation. Therefore, utilization of air-blood-saline contrast has been implemented for the improvement of Doppler signal in several clinical contexts.
It is now recommended in the evaluation of patients with pulmonary hypertension. Physical activity is severely restricted in patients with PAH, being exertional dypnea the most typical symptom. Exercise stress echo-Doppler imaging allows assessment of the response to exercise. It is an excellent screening test for patients with suspected PAH. Our purpose was to evaluate the value and accuracy of agitated saline with blood contrast echocardiography, in the improvement of the Doppler signal, to quantify PAPs during treadmill exercise-echocardiography.
To evaluate the value of contrast echocardiography, using agitated saline with blood, in the improvement of the Doppler signal used to quantify the pulmonary artery systolic pressure during exercise.
From a total of 41 patients (pts), we studied 38 pts (93%), 35 women, aged 54 ± 12 years-old. 27 with the diagnosis of systemic sclerosis, 10 with history of pulmonary embolism and one patient with a suspected idiopathic PAH, who were referred to the Unity of Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension for screening of PAH. According to the Unity protocol, a transthoracic echocardiogram was made, in left decubitus (LD), with evaluation of right ventricle-right atria gradient (RV/RAg). A peripheral venous access was obtained, with a 3-way stopcock and the patients were placed in orthostatism (O), with a new evaluation of RV/RAg. Exercise echocardiography (EE) was begun, with evaluation of RV/RAg at peak exercise (P) and afterwards agitated saline (8 cc with 1 cc of air and 1 cc of blood) was injected, followed by a new evaluation of RV/RAg (PC) and then the interruption of the EE. Pulmonary Hypertension was diagnosed when RV/RAg at the end of the exercise was superior to 40 mmHg.
The quality of Doppler signal was deteriorated in 5 pts, maintained in 6 pts and improved in 26 pts, with the use of contrast. In one patient, an interventricular septal defect was diagnosed. In 6 pts, a Doppler signal was only obtained with the use of contrast. In 15 pts, a RV/RAg superior to 40 mmHg was only obtained with the use of contrast. Of these, 9 have already been submitted to right heart cathetherism, that confirmed the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension in 5 of them (56%). RV/RAg (P) was 44 ± 11 mmHg and RV/RAg (PC) was 54 ± 11 mmHg, p < 0,001.
1. The method is applicable in a large number of patients. 2. RV/RA gradients obtained at peak exercise are higher with the use of contrast, and the clinical meaning of this difference should be evaluated in a larger number of pts submitted to right heart cathetherism. The high number of false positives should lead to a higher diagnostic threshold. 3. This method seems to have relevant clinical value in the diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension.