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Management of right heart thrombi associated with acute pulmonary embolism: is there no room for surgical embolectomy?/Akut pulmoner emboli ile iliskili sag kalp trombusunun tedavisi: cerrahi embolektomi icin yer yok mu?

Management of pulmonary embolism complicated with right heart thrombus (PE with RHT) is controversial. The original article published in The Anatolian Journal of Cardiology by Akilli et al. (1) regarding outcome of acute PE with RHT is very interesting. They analyzed 29 patients with acute PE with RHT among 312 PE patients during 6 years in a single center. Mortality was as high as 34% in study population but it was similar with previous reports. Although mortality of thrombolysis (18%) and heparin (27%) was same as previous report (11% and 29%) in Rose series (2), mortality of pulmonary embolectomy was high. There is a dilemma in thrombolytic therapy as a treatment of PE with RHT. Thrombolytic therapy may recanalize occluded pulmonary arteries, but it may lyse floating thrombus into small fragments causing additional occlusion of patent pulmonary artery and exacerbation of pulmonary hypertension. Anticoagulant therapy using heparin may inhibit formation of secondary thrombus in pulmonary arteries relieving pulmonary hypertension. However, embolization of large floating clot into the major pulmonary artery such as the main pulmonary artery or patent pulmonary arteries may induce the final stroke for patients on the verge of death. Despite small number of patients, most literature showed superiority of thrombolytic therapy. It is due to rapid reduction for volume of thrombus by thrombolytic therapy.

Theoretically, surgical embolectomy appears to be ideal management for critical PE with RHT. However, mortality of pulmonary embolectomy was high in Akilli's report (1). Mortality in international cooperative study also demonstrated inferiority of surgical embolectomy to thrombolytic therapy for massive PE with RHT (3, 4). On the contrary, team approach between cardiologists and surgeons demonstrated improved outcomes of critical pulmonary embolism (5-7). In massive pulmonary embolism, most patients die within several hours after presentation (8). As Akilli et al. (1) stated in the text, delay of surgical intervention may result in poor outcome such as right heart failure, multiple organ failure and ischemic brain damage in this situation. The decision of early surgical intervention before deterioration of hemodynamics, management of hemodynamics and respiratory state are keys to save critically ill patients. Multimodality approach using inferior vena cava filter (8), use of extracorporeal lung support (6, 9), catheter directed pulmonary embolectomy and surgical embolectomy may save critical patients (7).

Meta-analysis of 1300 patients who underwent pulmonary embolectomy showed that risk factor for poor outcome was cardiac arrest before pulmonary embolectomy (10). The operative mortality was as high as 59% in patients with preoperative cardiac arrest compared with 29% in patients who did not have preoperative cardiac arrest. Rescue surgical embolectomy led to a better in-hospital course when compared with repeat thrombolysis in patients with massive PE who have not responded to thrombolysis (11). The immediate transfer of patients who have not responded to thrombolysis to cardiac surgery centers could be considered as an alternative option.

Goldhaber (12) pointed out in the recent review paper that a multidisciplinary team with strong cardiac surgery participation should be considered for treatment of patients with massive or submassive PE who need advanced therapy in addition to anticoagulation. Delay often leads to multisystem organ failure that contributes to poor outcomes.

We, as surgeons participating for treatment of PE, believe that there is a room for pulmonary embolectomy to save critically ill patients due to massive PE with/without RHT through team approach. With early notification for cardiac surgeons under cooperation of cardiologist and radiologist, outcome of pulmonary embolectomy for massive/submassive PE with RHT will be improved. Time matters.

Ikuo Fukuda, Satoshi Taniguchi, Wakako Fukuda

Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Hirosaki-Japan


(1.) Akilli H, Gul EE, Aribas A, Ozdemir K, Kayrak M, Erdogan HI. Management of right heart thrombi associated with acute pulmonary embolism: a retrospective, single-center experience. Anadol Kardiyol Derg 2013; 13:00-00.

(2.) Rose PS, Punjabi NM, Pearse DB. Treatment of right heart thromboemboli. Chest 2002; 121: 806-14. [CrossRef]

(3.) Chartier L, Bera J, Delomez M, Asseman P Beregi JP Bauchart JJ, et al. Free-floating thrombi in the right heart: diagnosis, management, and prognostic indexes in 38 consecutive patients. Circulation 1999; 99: 2779-83. [CrossRef]

(4.) Torbicki A, Galie N, Covezzoli A, Rossi E, De Rosa M, Goldhaber SZ. Right heart thrombi in pulmonary embolism: results from the International Cooperative Pulmonary Embolism Registry. J Am Coll Cardiol 2003; 41: 2245-51. [CrossRef]

(5.) Leacche M, Unic D, Goldhaber SZ, Rawn JD, Aranki SF, Couper GS, et al. Modern surgical treatment of massive pulmonary embolism: results in 47 consecutive patients after rapid diagnosis and aggressive surgical approach. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2005; 129: 1018-23. [CrossRef]

(6.) Takahashi H, Okada K, Matsumori M, Kano H, Kitagawa A, Okita Y. Aggressive surgical treatment of acute pulmonary embolism with circulatory collapse. Ann Thorac Surg 2012; 94: 785-91. [CrossRef]

(7.) Fukuda I, Taniguchi S, Fukui K, Minakawa M, Daitoku K, Suzuki Y. Improved outcome of surgical pulmonary embolectomy by aggressive intervention for critically ill patients. Ann Thorac Surg 2011; 91: 728-32. [CrossRef]

(8.) Kucher N, Rossi E, De Rosa M, Goldhaber SZ. Massive pulmonary embolism. Circulation 2006; 113: 577-82. [CrossRef]

(9.) Arlt M, Philipp A, Voelkel S, Camboni D, Rupprecht L, Graf BM, et al. Hand-held minimised extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: a new bridge to recovery in patients with out-of-centre cardiogenic shock. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2011; 40: 689-94.

(10.) Stein PD, Alnas M, Beemath A, Patel NR. Outcome of pulmonary embolectomy. Am J Cardiol 2007; 99: 421-3. [CrossRef]

(11.) Meneveau N, Seronde MF, Blonde MC, Legalery P Didier-Petit K, Briand F, et al. Management of unsuccessful thrombolysis in acute massive pulmonary embolism. Chest 2006: 129; 1043-50. [CrossRef]

(12.) Goldhaber SZ. Surgical pulmonary embolectomy: the resurrection of an almost discharded operation. Tex Heart Inst J 2013; 40: 5-8.

Address for Correspondence/Yazisma Adresi: Dr. Ikuo Fukuda MD, PhD, Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine 5 Zaifu-cho, Aomori 036-8562, Hirosaki-Japan

Phone: +81 172 39 5073 Fax: +81 172 37 8340 E-mail:

Accepted Date/Kabul Tarihi: 12.07.2013 Available Online Date/Cevrimici Yayin Tarihi: 10.09.2013

doi: 10.5152/akd.2013.197
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorial Comment/Editoryel Yorum
Author:Fukuda, Ikuo; Taniguchi, Satoshi; Fukuda, Wakako
Publication:The Anatolian Journal of Cardiology (Anadolu Kardiyoloji Dergisi)
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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