Pulsus paradoxus, also paradoxic pulse or paradoxical pulse, is an abnormally large decrease in stroke volume, systolic blood pressure and pulse wave amplitude during inspiration. The normal fall in pressure is less than 10 mmHg. When the drop is more than 10 mmHg, it is referred to as pulsus paradoxus. Pulsus paradoxus is not related to pulse rate or heart rate, and it is not a paradoxical rise in systolic pressure. The normal variation of blood pressure during breathing/respiration is a decline in blood pressure during inhalation and an increase during exhalation. Pulsus paradoxus is a sign that is indicative of several conditions, including cardiac tamponade, chronic sleep apnea, croup, and obstructive lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD).
The paradox in pulsus paradoxus is that, on physical examination, one can detect beats on cardiac auscultation during inspiration that cannot be palpated at the radial pulse. It results from an accentuated decrease of the blood pressure, which leads to the (radial) pulse not being palpable and may be accompanied by an increase in the jugular venous pressure height (Kussmaul's sign). As is usual with inspiration, the heart rate is slightly increased, due to decreased left ventricular output.
Pulsus paradoxus can be caused by several mechanisms. Anatomically, these can be grouped into: cardiac causes, pulmonary causes and non-pulmonary and non-cardiac causes.Considered physiologically, PP is caused by: decreased right heart functional reserve, e.g. myocardial infarction and tamponade, right ventricular inflow or outflow obstruction, e.g. superior vena cava obstruction and pulmonary embolism, and decreased blood to the left heart due to lung hyperinflation (e.g. asthma, COPD) and anaphylactic shock.
Cardiac: constrictive pericarditis. One study found that pulsus paradoxus occurs in less than 20% of patients with constrictive pericarditis. pericardial effusion, including cardiac tamponade cardiogenic shock
PP has been shown to be predictive of the severity of cardiac tamponade. Pulsus paradoxus may not be seen with cardiac tamponade if an atrial septal defect or significant aortic regurgitation is also present.
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