Fragmentation of Massive Pulmonary Embolism Using a Pigtail Rotation Catheter*

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Study objectives

The purpose of this study was the evaluation of the efficacy and safety of mechanical fragmentation of acute massive pulmonary emboli with a rotatable pigtail catheter.

Material and methods

Ten patients (4 female, 6 male, age 53.8 +/- 9.5 years) with acute massive pulmonary embolism with hemodynamic impairment were included in the study. The fragmentation catheter device (William Cook Europe A/S; Bjaerverskov, Denmark) consisted of a 5F catheter embedded in a flexible 5.5F sheath. Pulmonary emboli were fragmented by mechanical action of the recoiled rotating pigtail, while the guide wire was exiting an oval side hole proximal to the pigtail tip. In eight cases, an additional thrombolysis was performed.


Fragmentation was successful in 7 of 10 patients. Average percentage of recanalization by fragmentation was 29.2 +/- 14.0%, and 36.0 +/- 10.0 % exclusively of the seven successful cases. Average shock index decreased significantly prefragmentation to postfragmentation from 1.52 to 1.22 (p = 0.03) and to 0.81 48 h later (p < 0.001). Decrease of the average mean arterial pulmonary pressure prefragmentation to postfragmentation was insignificant (from 33 to 31 mm Hg, p = 0.14); further decrease within the 48 h follow-up was highly significant (from 31 to 21 mm Hg, p < 0.001) due to a synergy of fragmentation and thrombolysis (average dose 63 +/- 25 mg plasminogen activator). There were no procedure-related complications. Overall mortality rate was 20%.


Fragmentation of massive pulmonary emboli with the pigtail rotation catheter achieved rapid partial recanalization in most cases, with ease of instrumentation, and without complications. Hemodynamic stabilization was completed in synergy with thrombolysis.

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