Archive for the ‘Hemodynamics’ Category

Doppler Mitral Inflow velocity profile   is the key to  assess LV diastolic function . The ratio between  E and A has become most popular parameter .

In the absence of atrial contraction what shall we do ?

The answer is simple .  We have 2 D parameters of LV diastolic function.

LA dimension ( > 30 % basal dimension which is  usually >  4 cm  ) is a most specific marker of diastolic dysfunction in the absence of   mitral regurgitation or stenosis.

The only available  velocity E wave profile  can help .A short  E deceleration time in a short cycle  would suggest  significant diastolic dysfunction.High amplitude   E  wave  > 2  M/sec in the absence of MR  will suggest diastolic dysfunction .

Curiously  ,   it can be  assumed    an episode of   lone AF  per-se   ,  be an indicator of diastolic stress for the left atrium .

After all ,  why should a person all of a sudden develop an episode of AF .(Hypoxia, Ischemia ,  excluded )

Other parameters.

Mitral annular velocities / E propagation velocity   / E/E’  are other tissue Doppler parameters  can be used.

Pulmonary venous flow velocity is  largely not useful  (Since A reversal does not occur )

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There are many  organic causes of mitral regurgitation. ( Ischemic , degenerative , valvular , cardiomyopathy etc.) It is not  rare for  pure  electrical events to result in valvular regurgitation.   A 70year old  man  with SHT   presented  with palpitation  and exertional dyspnea  .He was  later referred  for  Echocardiography.  Echo revealed LVH with intermittent MR and moderate LV dysfunction.

His ECG looked like

Ventricular ectopic recorded in bi-geminal rhythm

His  echocardiogram showed


His echo showed randomly timed mitral regurgitation was detected .See the Doppler MR jets below.

We know ventricles are integral  part of mitral valve apparatus  .Hence  it  wouldn’t  be a surprise to note  abnormally timed ventricular contraction  can  have a major impact  on mitral valve function.

When ventricles  prematurely begin  to contract  ( As  during  VPDs) it  interferes with  opening of mitral valve. In other words every VPD  technically imparts a  sort of  diastolic dysfunction !

VPDs occur in which part of cardiac cycle ?

VPDs  occur  either in early   or mid  diastole . Thank fully VPDs can not occur in systole . (Refractory period )

What would be the status of mitral valve at times of  VPDs?

Though it depends upon the timing of VPD ,  generally it interrupts the rapid inflow period of diastole .

In fact ,  it converts the cardiac  cycle from diastole to a partial systole or  a combination( fusion ) of diastole   and systole ! *

More MR jets are visualised than LV filling waves . Note the some of the E waves are sandwiched between two MR jets. ECG gating should have made this image more interesting .Any way , we have good MR jets to time systole nicely

* Is that a funny  imagination  ?

During   diastole ,  if  LV suddenly  begins  to contract   instead of  receiving the blood  ,  what will happen ?

VPDs are such a common arrhythmia , we  rarely  wondered  ,  it can have a dramatic  consequence  in a any  given cardiac cycle .While   the cardiologists think too  technically  their  patients observe with  shrewd  sense and tell us clearly  what  they feel  is  actually a   missed beat !

(Yeh  . . .  how simple  they describe the complex  hemo-dynamics  of  missing  diastole !)  .They also tell  us ,  next systole is felt as big thump as palpitation . (Post VPD potentiation )

Just imagine ,  if a patient  has  multiple VPDs  with  different  coupling intervals   that fall in different location of diastole  also  interspersed with sinus beats ,   how chaotic  would be the  the  mitral   filling .

This is what  is recorded in the above patient with multiple random MR jets .

Why all VPDs do  not cause MR ?

The timing is critical .We know all VPDs do  not generate a powerful contraction to cause MR. Atrial fibrillation, Prolonged PR intervals , heart blocks , critically raised LVEDP all can influence the trans mitral gradient . In fact these situation can result in  an  entity called diastolic MR that would be discussed later.

Can  VPD induced MR be  referred to  as diastolic MR ?

When VPDs  occur  in  diastole  , it  interrupts the diastole  and a new systole begins. In any  particular point of time there will be  leak into the LA  if the mitral valve is open .This is technically a new systole but in true sense it is the diastole of  the  previous beat . I wonder , whether   VPD induced MR  may be referred  to as one  form of  diastolic MR.  Of course ,  this MR can spill over to true  systole as well .

This also  makes  sense (Non !) as many of the VPDs do not open the  aortic valve ,   hence technically we can’t call the phase reset  by  all  VPDS   as a true systole !

What is the effect of VPDs  on pulmonary venous flow ?

Left atrial  cannon waves can occur that can elevate PCWP .This is the prime reason for resting or  exertional  dyspnea in these patients. Some may get a paradoxical relief  during exertion   as  exercise  suppress VPDs which are frequent at rest.

If VPDs can seriously interfere with mitral valve function , why  they are  often  considered benign  ?

VPDs are well tolerated* as long as  the  LV function is intact.  If VPDs are associated with  LV dysfunction  it  can initiate a vicious cycle of   hemodynamic deterioration .  Multiple VPDs  if left untreated can lead to progressive LV dilatation  in a  significant population .  Hence patients with  recurrent VPDS need some sort of  follow up. It  makes good medical sense to suppress VPDs in the long run. (Of course the  available anti VPD  drugs  are not very safe  !  The search for non toxic ,  ideal drug should go on !)

*”Well tolerated VPDs”   in no way  means  normal physiology.  Read a related article in my site.  “3 minutes crash course on VPDs”

Final message

VPDs  though considered  largely benign , can lead to dramatic  alterations in the  functions  of mitral valve , especially in diseased hearts.

We  must  realise  when ventricular  ectopic beats occur frequently  , it  interfere with the  both opening and closing of mitral valve.

It is really surprising  ,  the literature is  devoid of  major studies  about the  impact of  VPDs on  mitral valve  physiology . . . rather pathology !

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It is tempting to fix the  “Force of cardiac  contractility” ,  to be the  prime determinant  of  systolic  blood pressure* .  Rather ,  it is  influenzed heavily  by   multitude of anatomical  and  physiological factors.

                                        ”  In most  life instances  the primary determinant  blood pressure  is not the state of cardiac contractility  “

                 For many ,  this  would  appear as  shocker of  a statement !

Fellows  should not be  confused with above inference  . What it means is ,  the  heart initiates  the blood pressure by a brief  period of  systole .The pulse wave attains a peak during ejection phase  . This is the peak systolic blood pressure  . There is nothing called  sustained  systolic  blood pressure .  The quantum and  duration of peak systolic pressure  contributed by the LV contraction  is  far less than we imagine .

If blood pressure is to be controlled   primarily  by  cardiac contractility , how is that ,  a  blood  pressure of   about 80mmhg is maintained throughout diastole when the heart is taking rest and the  aortic  valves  are closed  ?

The  major elastic blood vessels  aorta and the major branches use the potential  energy gained during systole  (Like a rubber band )  into   kinetic energy as vessels recoil during diastole . This recoil  imparts an   important component  to the  diastolic blood pressure  augmentation  and maintenance.

It is  prudent to note  since  diastole is  much  longer than systole  , integrity of the vascular tree  become  much more important  to maintain the blood  pressure  till the next systole arrives.


*The cardiac contractility  , might  still be  important  in determining systolic BP  in  patients  with  severely compromised  LV function** For example ,  in  dilated cardiomyopathy  with  LV failure ,  systolic blood pressure will  be directly related to LV  function.  When LV function is critically  low , the elastic  blood vessels  fail  to  amplify the blood pressure  beyond  a limit.

**Still it is not  uncommon to find high systolic blood pressure  recorded in the back ground of with severe LV dysfunction especially hypertensive individuals.

What happens during aging ?

The  aorta and it’s major branches  gets thickened , the  vascular collagen  goes  cracking  with wear and tear of  life.  In effect , these vessels become less compliant . So , when blood is rapidly ejected  from the  left ventricle  into aorta  and their branches  it’s  distensibility   is  reduced  .This  fails to dampen the  pressure  wave  and  hence systolic  pressure spiking occurs. This we refer to systolic hypertension of elderly.

It is  important to  emphasise   major elastic arteries  has a big  say in fixing the systolic pressure. For the same cardiac output systolic pressure can surge in elderly this  is why we have kept the normal  in adults as 16o mmhg.

Another key point to be understood  is  ,  Aortic compliance  has an impact on diastole blood  pressure too ! . The  stiff vessels during diastole bring  less diastolic recoil. Diastolic recoil of large elastic arteries  determines the diastolic pressure . Hence there  could be  a mild fall in diastolic pressure with physiological aging when recoil is attenuated .  Since the  reduced diastolic  recoil ensures diastolic pressure from being elevated  the entity is aptly named as isolated systolic hypertension.(ISH)

Image courtesey :Norman M Kaplan, Lionel H Opie Lancet 2006; 367: 168–76

Final message

While the traditional  teaching  ramains  as  systolic blood  pressure  would be determined by cardiac contractility  / cardiac out put , while the   diastolic pressure is determined by peripheral  vascular  resistance .This is not an absolute reality ,  rather it is  too simplistic way of teaching circulatory physiology !

The  peak systolic blood  pressure is more often determined by the integrity of  Aortic  and major arteries   rather than cardiac contractility  and stroke volume. Similarly , aortic properties do have a  say in the diastolic pressure as well !

Further reading and debate

 The net effect of aging  on blood pressure :  Is it  physiological or pathological  ?

  Should we  treat  this  raised  pressure due to aging  related systolic hypertension  ?

There is a huge controversy going around ,  regarding the need  of  treating this mild elevation of systolic  blood pressure due to arterial stiffening .This will be addressed separately in this forum .



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VPDs are the most common arrhythmia  that  confront  us  in  cardiology clinics .While  it can be a totally  benign   manifestation in some  ,  it may signify a sinister condition in others. ECG  is the easiest  and surest way to identify VPD.However  a shrewd echocardiographer can detect the VPDs while imaging the heart.It is often missed if one do not concentrate on the mitral valve motion.

Note :The VPD convert the typical M pattern into a inverted U pattern in mitral valve.

One of the important hemodynamic side-effect of VPD is intermittent mitral regurgitation.

Effect of VPD on mitral valve opening .

By  conventional thinking   VPDs  are expected   to impact  more on the  mitral  valve closure than it’s  opening .In reality it has indirect influence on mitral valve  opening as well. The retrograde  conduction(VA conduction) of the VPD determine the timing of atrial contraction and hence the   mitral valve opening. If the VPD gets blocked retrogradely  within AV node , the normal sinus impulse will activate the atria in an antegrade fashion .Note ,  he atrial activity  occur randomly when multiple VPDs occur.This makes the cardiac cycle too complex to assess especially the diastole. (In fact true  physiological diastole  may  not occur here !)

If  the mitral valve opening  is interfered by a   VPD  (Early diastole is  the  favorite time  for VPDs to  appear  !  )   .When it occurs the AML is    suddenly pushed  upon superiorly  by the premature ventricular activity and hence resets the  mechanical diastole. Please note electrical resetting of atrium is different from mechanical resetting.

It is also possible atria and ventricle contract simultaneously .This is the time , a cannon wave  may occur inside LA .VPDs can result in pulmonary venous canons and may even elevate pulmonary venous pressure   if  this  occurs repetitively .

Another possibility  is ,  VPDs  may not initiate a ventricular  contraction at all .It may be  simply  be an electrical event. That’s why  we changed the name of extra systole  and premature contraction into just   premature depolarisations.

Why is it important to know about M Mode motion of VPDs

Cardiologists  continue to  engage wide qrs  tachycardias   in the  wrong side  of their   brain for many  decades .The ECG debate about wide qrs tachycardia  is expected to  continue  for generations . !  Few smart cardiologists would  rapidly put  the echo probe  over the mitral valve and able to  differentiate  instantly a VT form SVT   with fair  degree of accuracy.

Detection  of regular M shaped mitral AML  will exclude a VT with a high degree of precision .(AV dissociation by echo )*

Even  presence of trivial  MR*  (More often diastolic )   which occur  irregularly  will  definitely indicate it is VT . SVT  hemodynamically   can not result in this  MR is gives us evidence for AV dissociation

* No reference for these observed indices in our lab. (Class 1 Level C expert opinion(  No one calls me as expert though ! )

What is the mechanism  of VPD induced  mitral regurgitation ?

It is well-known VPDs can cause   mitral regurgitation .Not every VPD cause MR.

  • The timing is important .
  • It can be  either systolic or diastolic MR .
  • If VPD occur in early diastole (After the T wave , the MR jet  will collide with  diastolic mitral flow. )
  • Paradoxical septal motion induced by VPDs can alter the pap muscle alignment transiently and result in MR
  • We dot not know how a LV apical VPD  differ from RVOT  VPD in the genesis of MR.
  • Logic would suggest RVOT  VPDs are unlikely to result in MR as there is  a time lag for the impulse to reach the LV base

What is  the effect of  VPD and Aortic valve opening ?

While  every VPD promptly  hits the mitral valve ,  aortic valve may or may not open with VPDs .Again timing and focus of VPD could be  important.This is the reason during  multiple  VPDs  only few open the aortic valve , that  explains  pulse deficit. (The so called missed beat )

Final message

Anterior mitral leaflet (AML) is the most mobile structure  of  the heart . Hence ,  it is not surprising to note  sudden unexpected ventricular contraction will  have maximum impact on this valve .

When VPDs occur in clusters or at random it has a complex effect on the mitral valve motion. This is responsible for  palpitation , minimal mitral regurgitation and rarely trouble some pulmonary venous cannons and raise in pulmonary venous pressure .

Careful analysis of  AML motion can give us useful clues to differentiate VT from SVT during wide  qrs tachycardia

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Heart is a dynamic organ . It can alter  its force of contraction with every beat  according to the needs.Generally it responds to  length  of  previous  diastole.This is famously called frank starling law , ie the force of contraction is directly proportional to the end diastolic fiber length. So changing diastolic  duration as in atria fibrillation classically result in varying amplitude of LV contraction and pulse volume.

However , the commonest cause for  pulsus alternans  is  due to  severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction .There has  always been a suspicion about the existance of  beat to beat variation in  diastolic function as  well.  We have recently observed a  new* explanation for pulsus alternans .We know AV inflow is subjected to respiratory swings . Non  respiratory swings in mitral and tricuspid valves are rarely described. This pattern is now increasingly recognised.

These  non respiratory swings in the mitral inflow doppler pattern  is seen in  some of the  patients with hypertension and LVH.This  probably confirms the existence of  beat to beat variability of diastolic function . This phenomenon is relatively a new observation . Such pattern are common in patients who have had a recent hypertensive failure .


Here is a doppler of mitral inflow recorded from a patient with hypertension with LVH .

This is the doppler mitral inflow profile of a patient with Hypertension, LVH and class 2 dyspnea .Note the non respiratory swings in both "e" and "a" velocity

It is proposed  to  define  a new class of diastolic dysfunction that can be referred to as diastolic  mitral inflow  alternans .This phenomenon probably indicates a more severe grade of diastolic dysfunction.At the molecular level this is related to  undulating flux  in the calcium uptake from cytoplasm into SERCA .There is one more possible explanation for diastolic alternans  -Left atrial  dysfunction .

Occasionally one can visualise  a chaotic pattern of  diastolic filling waves  (e=a e>a a> e )  Such patterns are thought  to be markers of impending acute diastolic shutdown .

Further  analysis of  this  mitral doppler inflow pattern will be reported  later.


* Though we observed this for the first time , this is not a new phenomenon .There are few reports available in the literature.



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Constrictive pericarditis is a well known mechanical disorder  of heart that occurs due to the  compression  by thickened pericardium .Constrictive pericarditis is  the classical cause for  severe diastolic dysfunction.

We know , lungs are   prone for restrictive disorders due to chest wall , skeletal  disorders. Does the heart get mechanically restricted in extreme obesity ?

Not really , one may reason out . Chest wall fat can have little effect on cardiac function but when excess fat accumulates within the layers of heart , it is indeed possible for  the  fatty layer to impede mechanical filling of heart. This may be considered rare as of now , but many times it is not recognised ,  as most of the dyspnea in morbid obesity is attributed to some other known factors.

Dyspnea in obestity  can  due to

  • Pulmonary hypoventilation
  • Increased  MVO2 due to elevated cardiac mass
  • Diastolic dysfunction of  LV/RV
  • Increased demand  due to  excess BMI.

Image courtesey : http://www.onlinejacc.org

Now, we have evidence for  altered RV hemodynamics due to compressing effect  of epicardial fat pad. It may be due to   simple mechanical effect  of epicardial  fat over the distensiblity of RV or occasionally  LV. (The distribution of epicardial fat is mainly over the right ventricle or septal areas.)

This   paper  from Korean circulatory journal  succinctly describes this new possibility .


Final message

Bed side cardiology  continues to  bring surprises  , it  never fails to fascinate us   !

Heart  is  a dynamic organ ,  has a potential to get restricted by  any  layer that  surrounds  it. Constriction by pericardium got huge attention so far .We need to realise , the epicardium which is  a part of pericardium has a variable fat depot  . It  can take a different avatar  in an occasional obese individual  and   exert  important hemodynamic impact.

Excess fat is excess load on heart . . .  we have  to unload it

It is possible , sucking out the  epicardial  fat in morbid obesity can bring important relief to  those patients with unexplained dyspnea . We  need to  explore this possibility.

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Thousands of  coronary angiograms are done every day. Cardiologist no longer get excited to see exotic coronary lesions .Still , some images can be striking and dramatic. Here is an angiogram from a middle aged man  with stable angina  , who was  one among the routine early morning diagnostic studies  in our cath lab.

Who chopped the neck of this LAD ?

How this man was able to fill up the distal LAD almost completely? (With a complete cut off  right in the neck of LAD )

Are you sure there is antegrade flow ?

Do you get any clue ?

  • Can a trickle of  ante grade flow  sustain  a  TIMI 3 FLOW  ?
  • Or is it a  very efficient  instant collaterals  from LCX ?

Yes . The first one is right . An almost invisible antegrade channel  doing a exemplary job !

How is it possible ?

Realize an important fact . The distal flow beyond an obstruction  is not primarily dependent on degree of obstruction but the status of the distal vascular  bed .  If it is normal  even a hair-line patency  can  profusely perfuse the distal myocardial segment. This is what is happening to this man with a stable angina and perfectly normal micro vascular bed.

Lessens  from this Image.

Do not get fooled by the lay man’s logic. Realise there is  no simple relation  between  the degree of obstruction and degree of  blood flow impediment.It can be linear , curvilinear , or even inverse depending upon   the evolution and timing of obstruction  ,  number of lesions , presence or absence of collateral support , finally and  most importantly  the integrity of microvascular bed .

The  distal vascular bed drops its resistance drastically  once it senses  the problem in  proximal segment . This is based on Bernoulli principle and  is akin to how a  garden hose pipe  can simply increase  the velocity  by tightening the nozzle.*

* The garden hose analogy is a gross simplification of   complex factors that determine coronary blood flow.But it effectively clarifies a point ie  coronary blood flow is least dependent on coronary  stenosis (until  very late stages)

**Note further : This  hemodynamic  principle may not apply in acute occlusion as in STEMI  , where   acute  obstruction  often has a linear relationship with the quantum of blood flow.

By the way what happened to the above patient ?

Since he had significant angina there were no debates regarding management.  He  is posted for elective PCI this week-end .(We  can’t  get a stent just like that unless it is a real emergency  .Ours is a  Govt hospital !)

What is your take . Is it a going to be tough cross ?

I feel so , but my colleague Dr Gnanavelu   strongly  differs !

Let me post  our experience during PCI shortly.

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