Intern Emerg Med. 2020 Sep 16. doi: 10.1007/s11739-020-02494-x. Online ahead of print.
In patients with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, the echocardiographic assessment of the right ventricle (RV) represents a pivotal element in the understanding of current disease status and in monitoring disease progression. The present manuscript is aimed at specifically describing the echocardiographic assessment of the right ventricle, mainly focusing on the most useful parameters and the time of examination. The RV direct involvement happens quite often due to preferential lung tropism of COVID-19 infection, which is responsible for an interstitial pneumonia characterized also by pulmonary hypoxic vasoconstriction (and thus an RV afterload increase), often evolving in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The indirect RV involvement may be due to the systemic inflammatory activation, caused by COVID-19, which may affect the overall cardiovascular system mainly by inducing an increase in troponin values and in the sympathetic tone and altering the volemic status (mainly by affecting renal function). Echocardiographic parameters, specifically focused on RV (dimensions and function) and pulmonary circulation (systolic pulmonary arterial pressures, RV wall thickness), are to be measured in a COVID-19 patient with respiratory failure and ARDS. They have been selected on the basis of their feasibility (that is easy to be measured, even in short time) and usefulness for clinical monitoring. It is advisable to measure the same parameters in the single patient (based also on the availability of valid acoustic windows) which are identified in the first examination and repeated in the following ones, to guarantee a reliable monitoring. Information gained from a clinically-guided echocardiographic assessment holds a clinical utility in the single patients when integrated with biohumoral data (indicating systemic activation), blood gas analysis (reflecting COVID-19-induced lung damage) and data on ongoing therapies (in primis ventilatory settings).