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Background and Aim: Patients with acute pulmonary embolism (APE) associated with hemodynamic instability, i.e. high-risk APE (HR-APE), are at risk for early mortality and require urgent reperfusion therapy with thrombolysis or embolectomy. However, a considerable proportion of HR-APE subjects is not reperfused but only anticoagulated due to high bleeding risk. The aim of the present study was to assess the management of HR-APE in a single large-volume referral center. Methods: A single-center retrospective study of 32 HR-APE subjects identified among 823 consecutive patients hospitalized for symptomatic APE. Results: Out of 32 subjects with HR-APE (19 women, age 69 ± 19 years), 20 patients were unstable at admission and 12 subsequently deteriorated despite on-going anticoagulation. Thrombolysis was applied in 20 (62.5%) of HR-APE subjects, limited mainly by classical contraindications in the remainder. Percutaneous pulmonary embolectomy was performed in 4 patients. In-hospital PE-related mortality tended to be higher, albeit insignifi cantly, in the patients who developed hemodynamic collapse during the hospital course compared to those unstable at admission (67% vs. 40%, p = 0.14). Also, survival was slightly better in 22 patients treated with thrombolysis or percutaneous embolectomy in comparison to 10 subjects who received only anticoagulation (54% vs. 40%, p = 0.2). Major non-fatal bleedings occurred in 7 of 20 patients receiving thrombolysis (35%) and in 2 (17%) of the remaining non-thrombolysed 12 HR-APE subjects. Conclusions: Hemodynamically instability, corresponding to the definition of HR-APE, affects about 4% of patients with APE, developing during the hospital course in approximately one-third of HR-APE subjects. As almost 40% of patients with HR-APE do not receive thrombolytic therapy for fear of bleeding, urgent percutaneous catheter-assisted embolectomy may increase the percentage of patients with HR-APE undergoing reperfusion therapy. Further studies are warranted for a proper identification of initially stable intermediate-risk APE subjects at risk of hemodynamic collapse despite appropriate anticoagulation.
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