UMEM Educational Pearls

The poor sensitivity of bedside echocardiography to identify all-comers with pulmonary embolism is well documented. Most series cite a sensitivity and specificity of 31% to 72% and 87% to 98%, respectively (1,2). But as Nazerian et al demonstrate in their recent publication in Internal and Emergency Medicine, the diagnostic performance of bedside echocardiography is far more reliable in the subset of patients presenting in shock (3).

Of the 105 patients included in the final analysis, in 43 (40.9%) PE was determined to be the etiology of their shock. Bedside echo demonstrated notable diagnostic prowess when employed in this subset of patients, sensitivity (91%), specificity (87%), –LR (0.11), +LR (7.03). The sensitivity and –LR were further augmented when the venous US of the LE was included (sensitivity of 95% and –LR of 0.06) in the diagnostic workup. 


1.     Dresden S, Mitchell P, Rahimi L, et al. Right ventricular dilatation on bedside echocardiography performed by emergency physicians aids in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Ann Emerg Med. 2014;63(1):16-24.

2.     Nazerian P, Vanni S, Volpicelli G, et al. Accuracy of point-of-care multiorgan ultrasonography for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Chest. 2014;145(5):950-957.

3.     Nazerian P, Volpicelli G, Gigli C, Lamorte A, Grifoni S, Vanni S. Diagnostic accuracy of focused cardiac and venous ultrasound examinations in patients with shock and suspected pulmonary embolism. Intern Emerg Med. 2017;