Advanced cardiac echo – a review of E-point septal separation

Dr. Kyle Traboulsee, PoCUS Fellow

Reviewed by Dr. David Lewis

Copyedited by Dr. Mandy Peach


Often hypotensive, or acutely dyspneic patients, present to the emergency department in significant distress, and emergency physicians must work quickly to evaluate, stabilize, and treat these patients. In the past, determining whether there was a cardiac etiology to these presentations often relied solely on history, physical exam, and varies biochemical markers. Point-of-care ultrasound has increasingly been adopted as a tool to assess cardiac function, and specifically left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). Different methods can be used to estimate LVEF (such as “eyeballing”, and the Simpson method), but they can have large inter-reader variability, and require significant cardiac PoCUS experience. E-point septal separation is a measurement of how close the anterior mitral valve leaflet comes towards the interventricular septum and has been shown to be a quick and easy method for estimating LVEF. (1)(2)



               Blood flow is determined by pressure gradients, where blood will travel from areas of high pressure to low pressure. Such a pressure gradient exists between the left atrium and left ventricle. During diastole, the left ventricle relaxes, and the intraventricular pressure decreases until the pressure falls below that of the left intra-atrial pressure. When the left atrial pressure exceeds the left ventricular pressure, the mitral valve opens, and blood passively flows from the high(er) pressure atrium to the lower pressure ventricle. This occurs early in diastole, and the flow of blood from atrium to ventricle is further assisted by an atrial contraction (termed atrial kick) later in diastole. In a healthy individual the atrial-ventricular (A-V) gradient is sufficient to open the mitral valves and bring the anterior mitral leaflet in proximity (or contact) with the intraventricular septum. (1)(2)(3)

In the case of reduced LVEF, the diastolic pressure inside the left ventricle increases due to a decreased ability to eject blood during systole. This can occur due to several reasons, but often result in left ventricular dilation to compensate and preserve LVEF. As LVEF decreases, the ventricular diastolic pressure increases, and the atrial-ventricular (A-V) gradient decreases, leading to a decreased flow rate from atrium to ventricle during diastole, and thus a decreased mitral valve opening. That, paired with LV dilation, leads to an increased (measurable) distance between the anterior mitral valve leaflet and the intraventricular septum during diastole, which can be used as a surrogate marker for left ventricular function. (1)(2)(3).


PoCUS Technique

The E-point septal separation measurements will be made using a parasternal long axis (PLAX) view

Obtaining PLAX view


  • Place probe at the left parasternal border, just caudal to manubrium (second intercostal space), perpendicular to the chest. Ensure the probe indicator is placed towards to the patient’s right shoulder.
  • Slowly slide the probe down each successive intercostal space, as well as medially (not exceeding patient midline), and laterally, until the highest quality images are obtained (this will likely be around 3-5th intercostal space, left parasternal border, but may differ from patient to patient)
  • Once the best view has been located from step 2, slowly rotate the probe to elongate the left ventricle as much as possible. The probe may need to be rocked (heeled) to center the image.

The optimal PSL image includes the left ventricle (LV) in continuity with the aortic outflow tract. The right ventricle will be near field, the left atrium far field, and the mitral valve, aortic valve, and LV cavity are in between (in the middle of the field).  The apex of the left ventricle will be screen left. (4)(5).

Parasternal long axis view- probe orientation (6)              Parasternal long axis view-anatomy (7)

Parasternal long axis view: normal (own image)

EPSS measurements

EPSS measurements are commonly obtained using M-mode.

  • Once a parasternal long axis view (PLAX) is obtained, turn on M-mode, and place the cursor over the apical tip of the anterior mitral valve leaflet.
  • The M-mode will demonstrate movement of the anterior mitral leaflet, with respect to the intraventricular septum. The image should show 2 peaks per heart cycle, under a hyperechoic line. The first, larger peak (E), represents the initial opening of the mitral valve from passive blood flow in early diastole caused by the A-V gradient. The second, usually smaller peak (A), represents the atrial kick, occurring later in diastole. This M mode image is commonly referred to as a “cloudy sky over two hills”
  • Measure the distance from the top of the E wave to the intraventricular septum. (1)(5)

A normal EPSS measurement with M-mode (8)

PSL: normal EPSS, M-mode (own image)

An abnormal EPSS measurement with M-mode (8)

EPSS measurements can alternatively be measured in B mode

  • Once a parasternal long axis view (PLAX) is obtained, ensure anterior mitral valve leaflet and septum are well visualized over 3-5 cardiac cycles
  • Freeze the image and cycle through the previous 3-5 cardiac cycles, stopping on the image where the anterior mitral valve leaflet lies closest to the intraventricular septum.
  • Measure the distance between the tip of the anterior mitral valve leaflet and the intraventricular septum.

PSL-Poor mitral valve opening (own image)

PSL view- abnormal EPSS measurement in B mode (9)



An EPSS < 7mm is considered normal

An EPSS >7 mm has been suggested as 87% sensitive and 75% specific for an EF <50% (10)

Another study suggested that an EPSS >7 mm was 100% sensitive and 51.6% specific for an EF<30% (11).

One MRI study came up with the following formula to calculate EF (4):

EF=75.5 – (2.5 x EPSS in mm)



               Although a quick and relatively simple surrogate measurement for LVEF, there are some patient populations and situations in which EPSS may give in inaccurate estimate of cardiac function. Patients with mitral stenosis may have poor valve opening, leading to a high EPSS, in the context of an otherwise normally functioning left ventricle. Patients with aortic regurgitation may also have poor anterior mitral valve leaflet motion, and thus have a falsely high EPSS. For these reasons, it would be reasonable to apply color doppler across the mitral and aortic valves to assess for signs of regurgitant jets, as well as close assessment of the valves for signs of calcification. Off-axis measurement, regional wall motion abnormalities, and left ventricular hypertrophy may also result in false interpretations concerning LVEF (1)(3)(4).


Bottom line

               E-point septal separation is a relatively easy and reproducible technique that can be used to generate a quick estimation of left ventricular function and can help point towards a cardiac etiology in the undifferentiated patient.  It is important to keep in mind factors (as discussed) that may lead to false EPSS interpretations, and EPSS results should not preclude a more global cardiac assessment.



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  • Cisewski , D., & Alerhand, S. (2018, December). Fellow corner: E-point septal separation in the patient with congestive heart failure. ACEP // Home Page. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from
  • Miller, T., Salerno, A., & Slagle, D. (2021, May 25). Advanced Critical Care Ultrasound: E-Point Septal Separation to Estimate Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction. EM resident . Retrieved October 2021, from
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  • SonoSpot, & SonoSpot. (2012, September 17). Sonotip&Trick: “I can’t get a good parasternal long view.” really? well, try this… Retrieved October 18, 2021, from
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  • Miller, T., Salerno, A., & Slagle, D. (2021, May 25). Advanced Critical Care Ultrasound: E-Point Septal Separation to Estimate Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction. EM resident . Retrieved October 2021, from
  • Satılmış Siliv, N., Yamanoglu, A., Pınar, P., Celebi Yamanoglu, N. G., Torlak, F., & Parlak, I. (2018). Estimation of cardiac systolic function based on mitral valve movements: An accurate bedside tool for emergency physicians in DYSPNEIC patients. Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, 38(4), 1027–1038.
  • Ahmadpour H, Shah AA, Allen JW, et al. Mitral E point septal separation: a reliable index of left ventricular performance in coronary artery disease. Am Heart J. 1983;106(1 Pt 1):21-8
  • McKaigney, C. J., Krantz, M. J., La Rocque, C. L., Hurst, N. D., Buchanan, M. S., & Kendall, J. L. (2014). E-point septal separation: A bedside tool for emergency physician assessment of left ventricular ejection fraction. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 32(6), 493–497.
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