Objective: To describe the diagnostic technique used to identify the presence of a symptomatic interatrial shunt obscured by normal intracardiac pressures and to discuss the unusual findings in this case and their relevance to the investigation of patients with unexplained hypoxemia.
Design: Case report.
Setting: Intensive care unit of a university teaching hospital.
Patient: A patient with a variant of the platypnea-orthodeoxia syndrome.
Interventions: Intravenous administration of metaraminol.
Measurements and Main Results : Clinical examination and routine investigations ruled out pneumonia or myocardial infarction as a cause of respiratory failure, and pulmonary angiography was normal other than for the demonstration of an interatrial communication. Repeated transthoracic echocardiograms failed to indicate the presence of a significant interatrial shunt that was eventually detected following temporary shunt reversal with intravenous metaraminol and confirmation by bubble-contrast transesophageal echocardiography and right heart catheter studies.
Conclusions: Symptomatic right-to-left intracardiac shunt may occur in patients with normal intracardiac and pulmonary artery pressures. The presence of a significant shunt cannot be ruled out by transthoracic echocardiography without the use of bubble contrast.