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BACKGROUND - Acute pulmonary embolism confers a high mortality rate despite advances in diagnosis and therapy. Thrombolysis is often effective but has a high frequency of major bleeding complications, especially intracranial hemorrhage. Therefore, we liberalized our criteria for acute pulmonary embolectomy and considered operating on patients with anatomically extensive pulmonary embolism and concomitant moderate to severe right ventricular dysfunction despite preserved systemic arterial pressure.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We report 29 (17 men and 12 women) consecutive patients who underwent embolectomy from October 1999 through October 2001. Twenty-six patients (89%) survived surgery and were alive more than 1 month postoperatively. Median follow-up is 10 months.
CONCLUSION - The high survival rate of 89% can be attributed to improved surgical technique, rapid diagnosis and triage, and careful patient selection. We hope that other tertiary centers will evaluate pulmonary embolism patients with an algorithm that includes surgical embolectomy as one of several therapeutic options. Our contemporary approach to pulmonary embolectomy no longer confines this operation to a treatment of last resort reserved for clinically desperate circumstances.