Left ventricular diastolic function and dysfunction: Central role of echocardiography

Hisham Dokainish


Comprehensive and precise assessment of left ventricular (LV) systolic and diastolic function is necessary to establish, or exclude, heart failure as a cause or component of dyspnea. Echocardiography with Doppler readily assesses LV diastolic function; advantages include that echocardiography is non-invasive, does not require radiation, is portable, rapid, readily available, and in competent hands, can provide an accurate and comprehensive assessment of LV systolic and diastolic function. Correct assessment of LV diastolic function is relevant in patients with both depressed and preserved LV ejection fraction (EF ≥ 50%, and < 50%, respectively). Tissue Doppler (TD) imaging has been useful in demonstrating impaired LV relaxation in the setting of preserved LVEF, which, in the setting of increased cardiac volume, can result in elevated LV filling pressures, and dyspnea due to diastolic heart failure. TD imaging is not always critical in patients with depressed LVEF, since such patients by definition have impaired LV relaxation, and thus significant increases in volume will result in increases in LV filling pressure due to impaired LV compliance. Thus, in depressed LVEF, transmitral flow velocities (E and A, and E/A) and deceleration time, pulmonary venous Doppler, left atrial volume, and pulmonary artery (PA) pressures suffice for the accurate assessment of LV filling pressures. Overall, diastolic assessment by echo-Doppler can be readily achieved in by using a comprehensive diastolic assessment—incorporating many 2-dimensional, conventional and tissue Doppler variables—as opposed to relying on any single, diastolic parameter, which can lead to errors.

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