Emergency Ultrasound Unveils Intermediate-High Risk Saddle Pulmonary Embolism with Extensive Bilateral Clot Burden, Masquerading as Micturition Syncope: A Case Report


East Florida


Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

Document Type

Case Report

Publication Date



Case report, Catheter-directed thrombectomy, Echocardiography, Pulmonary embolism, Right heart strain, Syncope


Cardiovascular Diseases | Emergency Medicine | Respiratory Tract Diseases


BACKGROUND: Isolated syncope as the manifestation of pulmonary embolism (PE) is a rare and diagnostically challenging presentation that often leads to delayed or missed diagnosis, increasing morbidity and mortality. In spite of emphasizing cardiovascular etiologies of syncope, current guidelines offer essentially no guidance in establishing a diagnostic workup for PE in these patients. By performing bedside echocardiography, emergency physicians can accurately identify concerning features suggestive of PE in patients with syncope.

CASE REPORT: A 78-year-old man, receiving ertapenem via a peripherally inserted central catheter for treatment of extended spectrum β-lactamase urinary tract infection, presented to the emergency department for isolated syncope with collapse while urinating. Arriving asymptomatic with normal vital signs and a benign physical examination, a presumptive diagnosis of micturition syncope was made. However, subtle vital sign changes on reassessment prompted performance of a point-of-care echocardiogram, which revealed signs of right heart strain. A computed tomography angiogram confirmed a saddle PE with extensive bilateral clot burden. Catheter-directed thrombectomy was performed via interventional radiology, with successful removal of pulmonary emboli. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Pulmonary embolism presenting as isolated syncope represents a daunting diagnostic dilemma, as emergency physicians may not consider it, or anchor on more benign etiologies of syncope. Although lacking sufficient sensitivity to rule out PE, point-of-care echocardiography to evaluate for signs of right heart strain can quickly and effectively point toward the diagnosis, while also assessing for other emergent cardiovascular causes of syncope. Given the lack of evidence-based guidance concerning PE presenting as syncope, bedside echocardiography should be highly considered as a part of the emergency physician's diagnostic workup, especially in patients with abnormal vital signs.

Publisher or Conference

The Journal of Emergency Medicine