Journal of The Indian Academy of Echocardiography & Cardiovascular Imaging

: 2020  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 193--195

Echocardiography Imaging as a Fast-track Tool to Identify High-risk Population in COVID-19 Pandemic Era

Keyur Vora 
 Kiran Multisuperspecialty Hospital and Research Centre, Surat, Gujarat, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Keyur Vora
Kiran Multisuperspecialty Hospital and Research Center, Surat - 395 009, Gujarat


Degenerative valvular changes are not uncommon findings in echocardiography studies of elderly population. Clinical significance becomes very important during noncardiac morbidities. Our case report identifies the importance of studying valvular changes in elderly population resulting in secondary pulmonary hypertension, in order to categorize them for appropriate preventive measures, to prevent escalation of low risk comorbid conditions to life-threatening clinical outcomes during ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

How to cite this article:
Vora K. Echocardiography Imaging as a Fast-track Tool to Identify High-risk Population in COVID-19 Pandemic Era.J Indian Acad Echocardiogr Cardiovasc Imaging 2020;4:193-195

How to cite this URL:
Vora K. Echocardiography Imaging as a Fast-track Tool to Identify High-risk Population in COVID-19 Pandemic Era. J Indian Acad Echocardiogr Cardiovasc Imaging [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Dec 5 ];4:193-195
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Cardiovascular complications of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) disease are gaining the attention of clinicians as we learn the disease course among critical ill patients during an ongoing pandemic. A large proportion of patients who died from COVID-19 have been found to have coagulopathy with high risk of myocarditis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Even though COVID-19 is a respiratory tract infection, vascular and cardiac complications are emerging as prime factors for mortality. Notably, the immediate need is to identify targeted therapeutics and vaccine development which are time-consuming scientific processes. In the current scenario, the early identification of risk factors is critical to prevent morbidity and mortality of vulnerable population. Echocardiography-based imaging data can play a vital role in segregation of high-risk population to ameliorate the community transmission rate and preserve the vital medical resources for critically ill patients.

 Case Report

A 65-year-old male patient presented with dyspnea on exertion for 2 years which aggravated from the New York Heart Association Class I to class II for the past 1 month with recurrent upper respiratory tract infection treatments in the past 3 months. Electrocardiography reveals incomplete left bundle branch block pattern with left ventricular hypertrophy. Echocardiography reveals high-grade mitral regurgitation with eccentric jet [Figure 1]. The mitral valve (MV) morphology reveals increased thickness of leaflets >5 mm, asymmetric MV prolapse with posterior mitral leaflet prolapse [Figure 2], and severe pulmonary hypertension (PH) by TR jet [Figure 3]. Moreover, dilated tricuspid annulus (4.33 cm) reveals long duration of elevated right ventricular (RV) systolic pressure. RV systolic function was not impaired. Notably, the patient was never hospitalized or needed an emergency visit for any acute illness.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}{Figure 3}


Diseases of the MV are the second most frequent clinically significant form of valvular disease in adults. In particular, MV regurgitation occurs with increasing frequency as a part of degenerative changes in the aging process.[1] Degenerative MV disease frequently has leaflet prolapse due to elongation, eversion, or rupture of the chordal apparatus, resulting in varying degrees of leaflet malcoaptation and regurgitation during ventricular systole phase.[2] The systolic flow reversal into the left atrium leads to atrial dilatation/fibrillation, pulmonary venous dilatation, and secondary postcapillary PH. This pathophysiology creates a vulnerable microenvironment due to chronic elevation of plasma hydrostatic pressure in alveolar capillaries.

Under such primed condition, any respiratory viral infection can result in alveolar edema by direct viral toxicity, recruitment of inflammatory cells, and impairment of alveolar fluid clearance.[3] As reported previously, PH detected by echocardiography during respiratory syncytial virus infection was associated with increased morbidity and mortality.[4] Also, it is well-established sex dimorphism in patients with increased frequency of PH in females and more severe disease with poor survival prognosis in males.[5]

While most patients having COVID-19 pneumonia have a mild disease course, some patients develop severe respiratory distress, sepsis, and septic shock. Coagulopathy commonly occurs in sepsis and may predict outcomes in severe forms of COVID-19.[6] Han et al. reported disturbed coagulation function in patients infected with COVID-19 as compared to healthy controls, including elevated D-dimer, fibrinogen levels, and fibrin/fibrinogen degradation products.[7] In addition, two different studies by Zhou et al.[8] and Tang et al.[9] recently reported a positive correlation between elevated D-dimer levels on admission and in-hospital COVID-19 mortality, raising questions regarding potentially unknown pulmonary embolism.

Among recently reported cases, computed tomography (CT) scans reveal extensive ground-glass opacities along with bilateral pulmonary embolism in elderly patients.[10] This identifies an interesting phenomenon that even in the absence of major predisposing factors, diffuse bilateral COVID-19 pneumonia seems to confirm the role of severe form of disease as a precipitating factor for acute pulmonary thromboembolism and the causal relationship. This novel information about COVID-19 infection course emphasizes the importance of echocardiography in the emergency room for baseline parameter collection, e.g., right-sided chamber sizes, pulmonary trunk size, and RV systolic pressure by tricuspid regurgitation jet if detectable. This baseline information can be a vital source of information if in-patient COVID-19 patients develop aggravating dyspnea and elevated D-dimer levels. The majority of tertiary care centers do not have isolated dedicated CT scan facilities for COVID-19 patients. Echocardiography offers safe, reproducible, and dynamic measurements of pulmonary artery pressure, RV function, and right atrial pressure status. Furthermore, there is no need for contrast in echocardiography imaging which can be a limitation for CT contrast imaging in many of the severely ill COVID-19 patients with deteriorating renal function. In summary, echocardiography is a versatile tool to identify high-risk patient populations both in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms, and in-patient intensive care units for PH and acute embolism.


This article highlights a potential diagnostic pitfall in screening for secondary PH for identification of high-risk individuals. Echocardiography is an excellent widely available noninvasive approach to identify high risk individuals, provide detailed consultations, and implement targeted population measures to reduce prevalence of cross-infections and community-acquired infections. In the case of elevated D-dimer levels on admission or sudden clinical worsening, echocardiography should be considered as first-line diagnostic tool as pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening but potentially treatable condition. Nevertheless, further research may be instrumental to elucidate the pathogenesis of infection-prone pulmonary systems among degenerative valvular heart disease patients. In the era of annular influenza endemics and the very recent COVID-19 pandemic, echocardiography should be promoted as a gold-standard cardiac screening imaging method to identify vulnerable populations and high-risk hospitalized patients.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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