Massive pulmonary embolism is a poorly tolerated condition. Treatment options in this condition include anticoagulation and primary reperfusion therapy – systemic thrombolysis, catheter based treatments or surgical embolectomy. There is little data on the relative efficacy of each treatment.
The preoperative characteristics and outcomes of patients referred for surgical embolectomy between 2000-2014 was reviewed. Echocardiography was performed in the majority of patients before and after surgery.
Thirty-seven patients underwent pulmonary embolectomy between 2000-2014. One patient died within 30 days, another before leaving hospital. All other patients were alive at the time of follow-up (survival 94.6% at median 36 months). Median ventilation time was 24 hours. Median hospital length of stay was 10.5 days. There was echocardiographic evidence of severe right ventricular strain (increased size and decreased function) before surgery, which was significantly improved to within the normal range by discharge, and follow-up.
Surgical embolectomy is a safe procedure, with low mortality, improved postoperative right ventricular function and pulmonary pressure, and good long-term outcome. Early relief of a large proportion of the clot burden can be life-saving. There should be consideration for its use as an initial treatment strategy in patients with massive or submassive pulmonary embolus with a large burden of proximal clot. A multidisciplinary approach for the treatment of these patients is required.
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Published online: May 12, 2016
Accepted: March 24, 2016
Received in revised form: March 21, 2016
Received: December 20, 2015
© 2016 Australian and New Zealand Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons (ANZSCTS) and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.