Pulmonary embolism: a frequent cause of acute fatality after lung resection

  • Kalweit G
  • Huwer H
  • Volkmer I
 et al. 
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Between 1975 and 1993, lung resections were performed in 1735 patients because of malignancies, with an early postoperative mortality of 7.2% (125 patients). Early postoperatively acute cardiorespiratory failure was experienced by 32 patients (1.85%), of whom 26 died despite immediate resuscitation measures. In 20/26 patients autopsy was performed revealing central pulmonary embolism as the cause of death in 19 of them. In one patient a rupture of the free posterior left ventricular wall following transmural myocardial infarction was found. Two patients who could be resuscitated successfully were operated on with extracorporeal circulation after pulmonary angiography had been performed to confirm the diagnosis; however they died 2 days later of right heart failure. Of the survivors three cases had myocardial infarctions, one patient had arrhythmias of unknown etiology. Immediate embolectomy with the use of extracorporeal circulation was performed in two patients, only on the ground of suspected pulmonary embolism and without further diagnostic measures. Both patients survived. Of the 23 cases, with proven pulmonary embolism 17 were still under postoperative prophylaxis with heparin. Six patients were already fully mobilized. We conclude that massive pulmonary embolism is a frequent early postoperative fatal complication after lung resections, which cannot be safely prevented by postoperative heparinization. The only successful life-saving measure in the case of central pulmonary embolism is immediate pulmonary embolectomy, if necessary without further diagnostic measures.

Author-supplied keywords

  • *Postoperative Complications/mortality
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms/surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy/*adverse effects/mortality
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism/*etiology/mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate

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  • G Kalweit

  • H Huwer

  • I Volkmer

  • T Petzold

  • E Gams

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