Purpose: The standard medical management for patients in extremis from massive pulmonary embolism (PE) is systemic thrombolysis, but the utility of this treatment relative to catheter-directed intervention (CDI) is unknown. We evaluated the effectiveness of CDI as part of a treatment algorithm for life-threatening PE.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed on 70 consecutive patients with suspected acute PE over a 10-year period (from 1997 to 2006) who had been referred for pulmonary angiography and/or intervention. The criteria for study inclusion were patients who received CDI due to angiographically confirmed massive PE and hemodynamic shock (shock index, ≥ 0.9). CDI involved suction embolectomy and fragmentation with or without catheter thrombolysis.
Results: Twelve patients were treated with CDI. There were seven men and five women (mean age, 56 years; age range, 21 to 80 years). Seven patients (58%) were referred for CDI after failing systemic infusion with 100 mg of tissue plasminogen activator, and five patients (42%) had contraindications to systemic thrombolysis. Catheter-directed fragmentation and embolectomy were performed in all patients (100%). Additionally, catheter-guided thrombolysis was performed in eight patients (67%). Technical success was achieved in 12 of 12 cases (100%). There were no major procedural complications (0%). Significant hemodynamic improvement (shock index, < 0.9) was observed in 10 of 12 cases (83%). The remaining two patients (17%) died secondary to cardiac arrest within 24 h. Ten of 12 patients (83%) survived and remained stable until hospital discharge (mean duration, 20 days; range, 3 to 51 days).
Conclusion: In the setting of hemodynamic shock from massive PE, CDI is potentially a life-saving treatment for patients who have not responded to or cannot tolerate systemic thrombolysis.