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Respir Med. 2007 Jul;101(7):1537-42. Epub 2007 Jan 24.

Saddle pulmonary embolism diagnosed by CT angiography: frequency, clinical features and outcome.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



To assess the frequency, clinical presentation and outcome associated with saddle pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosed by computed tomographic angiography (CTA).


Retrospective review of 546 consecutive patients diagnosed to have acute PE by CTA from 1 September 2002 to 31 December 2003.


Fourteen of 546 patients (2.6%) had saddle PE; 10 were men (71%). None of these patients had pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease. Most common presenting symptoms included dyspnea (72%) and syncope (43%). Hypotension was documented in 2 patients (14%). The most common risk factor for PE was obesity (64%). CTA revealed saddle PE and additional filling defects in the main pulmonary arteries in all patients. Echocardiography was performed within 48 h of the PE diagnosis in 10 patients and revealed right ventricular dysfunction in 8 (80%). All patients were initially managed in the hospital, median length of stay of 4 days (range, 1-45 days). Standard anticoagulant therapy with heparin and warfarin was administered to all patients. Five patients (36%) received additional therapy; thrombolytic therapy was administered to 1 patient (7%) and 4 patients (29%) received an inferior vena cava filter. None of the patients died during their hospitalization. Four patients (29%) died following their hospitalization after intervals of 1, 5, 6, and 12 months, respectively. Causes of death were known in 3 patients, all of whom died from progressive malignancy.


Saddle PE in patients without pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease is associated with a relatively low in-hospital mortality rate and may not necessitate aggressive medical management.

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