Publish in this journal
Journal Information
Vol. 69. Issue 3.
Pages 340-342 (March 2016)
Download PDF
More article options
Vol. 69. Issue 3.
Pages 340-342 (March 2016)
Scientific letter
Full text access
Percutaneous Transcatheter Treatment for Massive Pulmonary Embolism
Tratamiento percutáneo de la tromboembolia pulmonar aguda masiva
Angel Sánchez-Recaldea,?
Corresponding author

Corresponding author:
, Raúl Morenoa, Belén Estebanez Floresa, Santiago Jiménez-Valeroa, Abelardo García de Lorenzo y Mateosb, José L. López-Sendóna
a Servicio de Cardiología, Hospital Universitario La Paz, Madrid, Spain
b Servicio de Unidad de Cuidados Intensivos, Hospital Universitario La Paz, Madrid, Spain
Related content
Rev Esp Cardiol. 2016;69:800-110.1016/j.rec.2016.04.025
Francisco Ramón Pampín-Huerta, Dolores Moreira-Gómez, Verónica Rodríguez-López, María del Pilar Madruga-Garrido
Article information
Full Text
Download PDF
Figures (1)
Tables (1)
Table. Clinical Data, Angiographic and Catheterization Details, Type of Percutaneous Intervention, In Situ Thrombolysis Dose, and Clinical Outcome
Full Text
To the Editor,

Massive pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE) is characterized by sustained hypotension or cardiogenic shock, or both, and has high in-hospital mortality. In addition to hemodynamic and respiratory support, treatment includes anticoagulation and systemic fibrinolysis. Thrombolysis is contraindicated in between one third and one half of patients, mainly due to recent major surgery or trauma, etc., and is unsuccessful in approximately 8% of cases.1 In these situations, the treatment options are surgical embolectomy, in select centers, or alternatively, percutaneous treatment.

In 2013, a protocol was implemented in our hospital for percutaneous intervention in patients with massive PTE and contraindication for thrombolysis. Since then, 24 such patients have been admitted and 5 of them (20%) received percutaneous intervention, performed by the interventional cardiologist (on-call available 24hours). Prior to 2013, intervention had been performed, sporadically, in 3 patients. Thus a total of 8 patients have received attempted percutaneous treatment. Six patients (75%) had cardiorespiratory arrest with pulseless electrical activity. In 3 patients, the initial suspected diagnosis was cardiogenic shock secondary to acute coronary syndrome, with definitive diagnosis of PTE in the catheterization laboratory; in 2 patients, diagnosis was established by transesophageal echocardiography in the operating room; and in the remaining patients, diagnosis was confirmed on CT angiography. The angiographic and catheterization findings are described in the Table. Six patients had thrombotic occlusion of at least 1 pulmonary branch, and the mean pulmonary systolic pressure was 56mmHg (standard deviation, 16mmHg); in 2 patients, the pressures were not recorded due to hemodynamic instability. Five patients received variable doses of thrombolytic, administered as in situ intra-arterial boluses, divided between both pulmonary arteries according to the thrombus size. Given that most patients had a contraindication for systemic thrombolysis, the average dose was approximately one quarter of the systemic dose. Seven patients underwent mechanical treatment with thrombus fragmentation or aspiration (or both), either after intra-arterial thrombolysis if there was no hemodynamic improvement, or simultaneously if the patient's condition was very serious. One patient, with thrombosis in the segmental arteries and normal pulmonary pressure, did not receive percutaneous treatment. Five patients underwent aspiration with an 8 F guidewire-catheter using a Judkins right coronary catheter or multipurpose catheter introduced through an 8.5 F deflectable catheter (Agilis, St Jude Medical), allowing the catheter to be directed to the main affected branches or lobes. In all patients, thrombus was extracted, in variable amounts. Upon thrombus extraction, the lumen of the 8 F guidewire-catheter became occluded and had to be completely withdrawn. Use of the Agilis catheter allowed withdrawal of the 8 F catheters as many times as necessary without losing the position in the pulmonary tree. The Figure shows the deflectable catheter in use. Following mechanical/thrombolytic treatment, pulmonary systolic pressure decreased significantly (final pressure, 37mmHg; standard deviation, 6mmHg; P=.007). The aim of the procedure was to reduce pulmonary pressure and increase systemic pressure and pulmonary oxygenation. One patient died in the catheterization laboratory, although the entire procedure was performed in cardiac arrest (patient 6), and there were 2 in-hospital deaths: 1 patient died of intracranial hemorrhage despite the use of just one quarter of the systemic dose of thrombolytic, and 1 patient had a cardiac arrest in the vascular operating room. This patient, following successful percutaneous treatment of the PTE, required vascular repair to control an arteriovenous fistula hemorrhage caused by femoral vein puncture during catheterization.


Clinical Data, Angiographic and Catheterization Details, Type of Percutaneous Intervention, In Situ Thrombolysis Dose, and Clinical Outcome

  Age  Sex  Diagnostic technique  Thrombolysis contra-indication  Angiographic findings  Preintervention PAP  In situ TL, dose  Transcatheter treatment  Postintervention
79  Female  CT-angio: bilateral PTE  HI  Bilateral segmental artery thrombus  35/18 (24)  No  No    Asymptomatic (15 months) 
67  Female  Catheterization
suspected ACS 
HI  Complete occlusion RPA  Not recorded  Alteplase 25mg RPA  Balloon fragmentation  Not recorded  In-hospital death due to ICH 
44  Male  CT-angio: bilateral PTE  Knee surgery  Complete occlusion RPA  70/30 (45)  No  14 F aspiration  40/20 (26)  In-hospital death 
33  Female  TEE: dilatation/dysfunction RV  Surgery, hand replant  Occlusion RPA and inferior lobar branches LPA  60/20 (34)  Alteplase 10mg RPA and 5mg LPA  8 F aspiration  35/15 (16)  Asymptomatic (6 months) 
42  Female  TEE: dilatation/dysfunction RV and RPA thrombus  Surgery, skin graft  Occlusion RPA  51/21 (31)  Alteplase 20mg RPA  Pigtail fragmentation
8 F aspiration 
31/13 (19)  Asymptomatic (2 years) 
71  Male  Catheterization
suspected ACS 
No  Bilateral occlusion of RPA and LPA  Not recorded  Alteplase
50mg PT 
8 F aspiration  Not recorded  Died in catheterization laboratory 
68  Male  CT-angio: bilateral PTE  Hip surgery  Occlusion superior lobar artery  43/18 (26)  No  8 F aspiration  35/15 (22)  Asymptomatic (7 years) 
70  Male  Catheterization
suspected ACS 
Hip surgery  Complete occlusion RPA  80/40 (53)  Alteplase
20mg + 20mg RPA 
Balloon fragmentation  45/25 (31)  Asymptomatic (8 years) 

ACS, acute coronary syndrome; CT-angio, computed tomography angiography; HI, head injury; ICH, intracranial hemorrhage; LPA, left pulmonary artery; postinterv. PAP, pulmonary artery pressure; PT, pulmonary trunk, PTE, pulmonary thromboembolism; RPA, right pulmonary artery; RV, right ventricle; TEE, transesophageal echocardiography; TL, thrombolytic.


Patient 5. A: Angiography showing a large thrombus lodged in the right pulmonary branch. B: Thrombus aspiration with a deflectable catheter that allowed the passage of an 8 F guidewire-catheter through the thrombus. C: Final angiography, after mechanical/fibrinolytic treatment, showing residual thrombus but good distal perfusion. D: Baseline aortic and pulmonary pressures. E: Gross samples of aspirated thrombus. F: Final aortic and pulmonary pressures.


Mortality from massive PTE is very high (approximately 30%) and is 3 to 7 times higher in patients who have undergone cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In our study, mortality was 33%, taking into account that 1 patient did not undergo intervention and that another patient underwent the entire procedure in prolonged cardiac arrest. Currently, there are no randomized studies comparing endovascular treatment with thrombolysis or with surgical embolectomy, and therefore the existing evidence comes from observational studies. A systematic analysis that included 594 patients with massive PTE (from 35 studies) found a success rate, defined as resolution of hypoxia, hemodynamic stabilization, and discharge from hospital, of 85.5% (between 40% and 100% depending on the series), and a major complication rate of just 2.4%.1 This difference in mortality compared with our study is probably due to the profile of the patients included, considering that most patients in our series had had a cardiac arrest. In addition to reducing the thrombotic load by thrombus fragmentation and aspiration, endovascular treatment has the advantage of being able to administer the thrombolytic in situ, increasing its effectiveness and reducing the risk of hemorrhage because low doses can be administered. Fragmentation and aspiration were performed only in the main arteries and lobar arteries, not in the segmental arteries, and the procedure was ended as soon as hemodynamic and respiratory improvement were obtained, independently of the angiographic result. There was 1 serious procedural complication, which was a femoral arteriovenous fistula requiring vascular repair, and the patient died of a probable rethrombosis when anticoagulation was withheld.

This single-center study shows that percutaneous treatment of massive PTE is effective and offers an alternative to surgical embolectomy when fibrinolysis is contraindicated or has failed. In Spain, urgent percutaneous treatment of PTE could be easily implemented in a large number of hospitals with on-call teams of interventional cardiologists or radiologists.

W.T. Kuo, M.K. Gould, J.D. Louie, J.K. Rosenberg, D.Y. Sze, L.V. Hofmann.
Catheter-directed therapy for the treatment of massive pulmonary embolism: systemic review and meta-analysis of modern techniques.
J Vasc Interv Radiol., 20 (2009), pp. 1431-1440
Copyright © 2015. Sociedad Española de Cardiología
Revista Española de Cardiología (English Edition)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Article options
es en

¿Es usted profesional sanitario apto para prescribir o dispensar medicamentos?

Are you a health professional able to prescribe or dispense drugs?