Comparison of Surgical Embolectomy and Veno-arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Massive Pulmonary Embolism

Joshua B. Goldberg, Daniel M. Spevack, Syed Ahsan, Yogita Rochlani, Suguru Ohira, Philip Spencer, Masashi Kai, Ramin Malekan, David Spielvogel, Steven Lansman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Massive pulmonary embolism (MPE) is associated with a 20-50% mortality rate with guideline directed therapy. MPE treatment with surgical embolectomy (SE) or venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) have shown promising results. In the context of a surgical management strategy for MPE, a comparison of outcomes associated with VA-ECMO or SE was performed. A retrospective review of a single institution cardiac surgery database was performed, identifying MPE treated with SE or VA-ECMO between 2005-2020. Primary outcome was in-hospital survival. 59 MPE [27 (46.8%) VA-ECMO vs 32 (54.2%) SE] were identified. All presented with elevated cardiac biomarkers, tachycardia (mean heart rate 113 ± 20 beats/minute), hypotension (mean systolic blood pressure 85 ± 22 mm Hg) and vasopressors requirement, without significant differences between cohorts. Preoperative CPR was performed in 37.3% (22/59), without a significant difference between cohorts. More VA-ECMO presented with questionable neurologic status (GCS ≤ 4) [9/27 (33.3%) vs 2/32 (6.2%), P = 0.008] and more VA-ECMO failed thrombolysis [8/27 (29.6) vs 2/32 (6.3), P = 0.014]. All presented with severe RV dysfunction, by discharge all had normalization of echocardiographic RV function. Overall mortality was 10.2%, with a trend toward higher mortality among VA-ECMO [14.9% (4/27) vs 6.3% (2/32) P = 0.14]. CPR was independently associated with death (OR 10.8, P = 0.02) whereas treatment modality was not (OR 0.24). In an extremely unstable MPE population VA-ECMO and SE were safely performed with low mortality while achieving RV recovery. Adverse outcomes were more closely associated with preoperative CPR than with treatment modality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)934-942
Number of pages9
JournalSeminars in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Right ventricular failure
  • Surgical embolectomy
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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