ASE issues echocardiography guidance amid COVID-19 pandemic


The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) has issued a statement on protecting patients and echocardiography service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the risk for cardiovascular complications associated with COVID-19, echocardiographic services will likely be needed for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, meaning echo providers will be exposed to SARS-CoV-2, write the statement authors, led by James N. Kirkpatrick, MD, director of the echocardiography laboratory at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

The statement was published online April 6 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The authors say the statement is intended to help guide the practice of echocardiography in this “challenging time.” It was developed with input from a variety of echocardiography providers and institutions who have experience with the COVID-19, or have been “actively and thoughtfully preparing for it.”

Who, When, Where, and How

The statement covers triaging and decision pathways for handling requests for echocardiography, as well as indications and recommended procedures, in cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Among the recommendations:

  • Only perform transthoracic echocardiograms (TTE), stress echocardiograms, and transesophageal echocardiograms (TEE) if they are expected to provide clinical benefit. Appropriate-use criteria represent the first decision point as to whether an echocardiographic test should be performed.
  • Determine which studies are “elective” and reschedule them, performing all others. Identify “nonelective” (urgent/emergent) indications and defer all others.
  • Determine the clinical benefit of echocardiography for symptomatic patients whose SARS-CoV-2 status is unknown.
  • Cautiously consider the benefit of a TEE examination weighed against the risk for exposure of healthcare personnel to aerosolization in a patient with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • Postpone or cancel TEEs if an alternative imaging modality can provide the necessary information.
  • Note that treadmill or bicycle stress echo tests in patients with COVID-19 may lead to exposure because of deep breathing and/or coughing during exercise. These tests should generally be deferred or converted to a pharmacologic stress echo.


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