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Ann Thorac Surg. 1991 Nov;52(5):1102-5; discussion 1105-7.

Fulminant pulmonary embolism: symptoms, diagnostics, operative technique, and results.

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Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Surgical Center, Hannover, Germany.


Fulminant pulmonary embolism associated with cardiac arrest has an extremely high mortality. The feasibility of pulmonary embolectomy initiated during resuscitation is still under discussion. Between January 1975 and January 1991, pulmonary embolectomy was performed in 27 patients, 21 to 79 years old. The diagnosis was established primarily by clinical findings in 18 patients, by angiography and ventilation-perfusion mismatch in 4 patients, and by transesophageal echocardiography in 1 patient seen recently. Eleven patients did not require resuscitation (group 1); 5 patients had to be resuscitated and underwent operation after circulation was reestablished without need of further cardiac massage (group 2); and 11 patients were connected to extracorporeal circulation devices during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (30 to 210 minutes) (group 3). Embolectomy was performed using extracorporeal circulation with the heart beating (n = 2) or fibrillating (n = 15) or using cardioplegia (n = 10). Fifteen patients received a caval clip or ligature at the end of the procedure. Twelve patients died early postoperatively; the mortality rates were 36%, 60%, and 45% for groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Eight patients died of right heart failure, and 2 patients each died of brain death and sepsis. Of the surviving patients, only 1 showed ischemic brain damage. Mean stay in the intensive care unit was 5.1, 7.0, and 9.75 days for groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively. There were no recurrent embolisms during the 15-year follow-up (mean follow-up, 4.6 years). This experience demonstrates that even with subtotal obstruction of the pulmonary arteries, effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation with maintenance of uncompromised brain function is possible.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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