Keywords: cardiac ultrasound, pulmonary embolism (PubMed Search)
The apical 4-chamber view of the heart on bedside ultrasound gives an excellent comparative view of the sizes of the right ventricle (RV) and left ventricle (LV). The RV is normally ~ 0.5-0.6 the size of the LV. When the RV appears too large, certainly if the RV > LV in size, it indicates RV dilatation.
RV dilatation can be chronic (e.g. COPD or sleep apnea with pulmonary hypertension, etc.) or acute (e.g. PE, RV MI). How can you tell whether the condition is chronic or acute? Just take a look at the RV free wall. If the RV free wall measures < 5 mm, it's a pretty good indication that you are dealing with an acute condition. Think PE or RV MI!
[thanks to Dr. Jim Hwang from Brigham and Women's Hospital for providing this pearl]