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Transesophageal Echocardiography of Pulmonary Thrombus Causing Complete Left Pulmonary Artery Occlusion

Brzezinski, Marek MD; Corkey, William B. MD; Grichnik, Katherine P. MD; Swaminathan, Madhav MD

doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000175211.64423.18
Cardiovascular Anesthesia: Echo Didactics & Rounds

Department of Anesthesiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

Supplemental data available at

Accepted for publication April 4, 2005.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Marek Brzezinski, MD, Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, VA Medical Center, 4150 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121. Address electronic mail to

A 36-yr-old female patient was referred to our institution for management of a pulmonary embolism (PE) associated with respiratory failure. Her history was significant for an uncomplicated partial hysterectomy 6 months previously. One month later she presented to an outside hospital with dyspnea and chest pain. Computed tomography of the chest demonstrated a massive PE occluding the left pulmonary artery (LPA). Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) revealed a moderately enlarged right ventricle (RV) with moderate decrease in contractility and an estimated RV systolic pressure of 58 mm Hg. Left ventricular (LV) function was normal. Her preoperative angiogram at our institution demonstrated complete occlusion of the LPA at its origin. The patient underwent pulmonary thromboendarterectomy with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Intraoperatively, the entire LPA was found to be occluded with organized thrombus that was completely removed. Intraoperative pre-CPB transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) examination revealed signs of combined volume and pressure overload of the RV and moderate to severe RV dysfunction. The right atrium was massively enlarged and the interatrial septum was severely curved towards the left during systole and diastole. The interventricular septum displayed diastolic septal flattening (D-shaped ventricle). The LV function was normal. The modified mid-esophageal ascending aortic short axis (ME asc aortic SAX) view demonstrated a total occlusion of the LPA (Fig. 1) (video loop available at The upper esophageal aortic arch short axis (UE aortic arch SAX) view further defined the contours and echogenic nature of the thrombus (Fig. 2). The post-CPB TEE examination confirmed a patent LPA. The postoperative ventilation/perfusion scan indicated differential perfusion in the left lung of only 3%. On the eleventh postoperative day, repeat TTE revealed a severely enlarged RV with global decrease in contractility with an estimated RV systolic pressure of 55 mm Hg. The LV function was normal. These presented images display thrombus in the LPA, a structure usually difficult to image secondary to interposition of left bronchus between the esophagus (TEE probe) and the LPA (1,2). Standard TEE imaging of the PA includes the UE aortic arch SAX view and the ME asc aortic SAX view, and should be complemented by evaluation for the presence of RV dysfunction and increased PA pressures in patients with suspected PE (1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

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1. Pruszczyk P, Torbicki A, Kuch-Wocial A et al. Diagnostic value of transoesophageal echocardiography in suspected haemodynamically significant pulmonary embolism. Heart 2001;85:628–34.
2. Rosenberger PSS, Body SC, Eltzschig HK. Utility of intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography for diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Anesth Analg 2004;99:12–6.
© 2005 International Anesthesia Research Society