High-risk pulmonary embolism (PE) is a life-threatening condition that must be recognised and treated rapidly. The importance of correct risk stratification to guide therapeutic decisions has prompted the introduction of multidisciplinary PE response teams (PERTs). The recommended first-line treatment for high-risk PE is intravenous thrombolysis. Alternatives to consider if thrombolysis has insufficient effect or may cause significant haemorrhagic complications include catheter-directed intervention (CDI) and surgical thrombectomy. For patients in deep shock or cardiac arrest, veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) can be instituted for cardiopulmonary rescue and support during CDI, thrombectomy or pharmacological treatment. We present a complex case of high-risk PE that illustrates the importance of an early PERT conference and repeated decision-making when the initial therapy fails. After a trial of thrombolysis with insufficient effect, VA-ECMO was used to reverse circulatory and respiratory collapse in a patient with PE and recurrent episodes of cardiac arrest.
- intensive care
- venous thromboembolism
- pulmonary embolism
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Contributors KF and KS were the attending physicians. CR initiated the case report. KF retrieved and assessed data from medical records supervised by KS. KF conducted clinical follow-up and recorded the patient narrative. KF and KS drafted the manuscript to which CR added important editing. All authors revised and agreed upon the final version of the report.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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