NYMC Faculty Publications

Comparison of Surgical Embolectomy and Veno-Arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Massive Pulmonary Embolism

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Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery

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Second Department



Massive pulmonary embolism (MPE) is associated with a 20-50% mortality rate with guideline directed therapy. MPE treatment with surgical embolectomy (SE) or venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) have shown promising results. In the context of a surgical management strategy for MPE, a comparison of outcomes associated with VA-ECMO or SE was performed. A retrospective review of a single institution cardiac surgery database was performed, identifying MPE treated with SE or VA-ECMO between 2005-2020. Primary outcome was in-hospital survival. 59 MPE [27 (46.8%) VA-ECMO vs 32 (54.2%) SE] were identified. All presented with elevated cardiac biomarkers, tachycardia (mean heart rate 113 ± 20 beats/minute), hypotension (mean systolic blood pressure 85 ± 22 mm Hg) and vasopressors requirement, without significant differences between cohorts. Preoperative CPR was performed in 37.3% (22/59), without a significant difference between cohorts. More VA-ECMO presented with questionable neurologic status (GCS ≤ 4) [9/27 (33.3%) vs 2/32 (6.2%), P = 0.008] and more VA-ECMO failed thrombolysis [8/27 (29.6) vs 2/32 (6.3), P = 0.014]. All presented with severe RV dysfunction, by discharge all had normalization of echocardiographic RV function. Overall mortality was 10.2%, with a trend toward higher mortality among VA-ECMO [14.9% (4/27) vs 6.3% (2/32) P = 0.14]. CPR was independently associated with death (OR 10.8, P = 0.02) whereas treatment modality was not (OR 0.24). In an extremely unstable MPE population VA-ECMO and SE were safely performed with low mortality while achieving RV recovery. Adverse outcomes were more closely associated with preoperative CPR than with treatment modality.