Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Feb 16. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1722868. Online ahead of print.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common medical condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality. It is the third most common cause of death in the United States. Historically, surgery for PE was associated with a high mortality rate, and this led to a significant decrease in the volume of operations being performed. However, significant improvements in patient selection and outcomes for surgical pulmonary embolectomy (SPE) at the end of the 20th century led to a renewed interest in the procedure. SPE was historically reserved for patients presenting with acute PE and hemodynamic collapse or cardiac arrest. Contemporary data has provided sufficient evidence to support earlier intervention for patients with acute PE who demonstrate clinical, laboratory, and echocardiographic signs of right ventricular dysfunction. Institutions with cardiac surgery capabilities are implementing SPE earlier for the management of both massive and submassive PEs with excellent short-term and long-term outcomes. Recently, venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) has been employed successfully to treat patients with massive PE. Excellent short-term outcomes have been reported for patients suffering from PE after treatment with VA-ECMO. Further research, specifically with randomized controlled trials, is needed to determine the appropriate timing and patient selection for the use of VA-ECMO in patients with PE. These data would lead to updated guidelines and algorithms incorporating VA-ECMO and SPE for patients with PE.