UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Airway Management

Title: Can I admit this normotensive patient with PE to the general med/surg tele wards?

Keywords: PE, tachypnea, Critical Care, ED Disposition (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/21/2019 by Robert Brown, MD (Emailed: 10/22/2019)
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ICU admission rates for all acute PEs vary wildly across the country (<5% to ~80%).

To predict which hemodynamically stable, normotensive PE patients should be admitted to the ICU, a single-center retrospective analysis of 7 years’ data sought to describe the reasons why normotensive patients with PE required vasopressors within 48 hours of admission to the ICU. The authors studied 293 patients admitted to the ICU at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston and found only 8 patients (2.7%) who decompensated within the first 2 days.  Of MANY variables studied, only respiratory rate was significantly different between those who decompensated and those who did not (mean RR 29 with range 26-32 in the decompensated group vs mean 21 with range 17-24).

Bottom Line: cost control experts may lean on you to admit fewer PE patients to the ICU. There is no perfectly reliable way to predict which normotensive patient with a PE will decompensate. The PESI score has been validated but even the low risk cohort had 1.6% mortality at 3 days. The BOVA score has been validated but its endpoint of mortality at 30 days is less useful for planning admission. Tachypnea should concern you.



Admon A, Seymour C, Gershengorn H, et al. Hospital-level variation in ICU admission and critical care procedures for patients hospitalized for pulmonary embolism. Chest 2014; 146(6):1452-1461

Patel H, Shih J, Gardner R, et al. Hemodynamic decompensation in normotensive patients admitted to the ICU with pulmonary embolism. Journal of Critical Care 2019; 54:105-109