Saddle vs Nonsaddle Pulmonary Embolism: Clinical Presentation, Hemodynamics, Management, and Outcomes

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To understand the clinical significance, hemodynamic presentation, management, and outcomes of patients presenting with saddle pulmonary embolism (PE).


All patients with saddle PE diagnosed at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2014, were included in this study. These patients were age and simplified Pulmonary Embolism Severity Index (sPESI) matched (1:1) to a nonsaddle PE cohort. Both groups were then classified into massive, submassive, and low-risk PE based on established criteria and compared for clinical presentation, management, and outcomes.


A total of 187 consecutive patients with saddle PE were identified. The saddle PE group presented more frequently with massive PE (31% vs 20%) and submassive PE (49% vs 32%), whereas low-risk PE was more common in the nonsaddle PE group (48% vs 20%). Systemic thrombolysis was used more frequently in the saddle PE group on admission (10% vs 4%; P=.04) and later during hospitalization (3.2% vs 0%; P=.03). Late major adverse events were similar in both groups except for mechanical ventilation (6% in saddle PE vs 1% in nonsaddle PE; P=.02). Overall in-hospital mortality did not differ between the 2 groups (4.3% in saddle PE vs 5.4% in nonsaddle PE; P=.81).


Although patients with saddle PE presented with higher rates of hemodynamic compromise and need for thrombolysis and mechanical ventilation, we found no difference in short-term outcomes compared with an age- and severity-matched nonsaddle PE cohort. Overall, in-hospital mortality was low in both groups.

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