Perioperative pulmonary thromboembolism: current concepts and treatment options

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Anesthesiologists are familiar with pulmonary emboli prophylaxis paradigms and many have witnessed acute intraoperative embolization. Clinicians must balance conservative anticoagulation and aggressive intervention in perioperative submassive pulmonary emboli, yet the bulk of the literature excludes surgery as a relative contraindication. This review will summarize the current treatment options for acute pulmonary emboli, drawing attention to special considerations in perioperative submassive pulmonary emboli, and discuss right ventricular monitoring to improve assessment of intervention efficacy.

Recent findings

Recent reviews have identified the elevated risk and inadequacy of treatment of pulmonary embolism in intra and postoperative patients, in part because of the risks of systemic anticoagulation. Early studies of catheter-directed therapies have shown promising efficacy with a reduction in bleeding risk, which is especially important for perioperative patients. Success relies on defining endpoints, yet the practice of measuring mean pulmonary artery pressure alone to assess intervention efficacy is flawed.

Summary

Identifying submassive pulmonary emboli that requires treatment and optimizing therapy remains difficult. Researchers must consider avoiding systemic anticoagulation and focus on designing trials that evaluate intervention efficacy in surgical patients. The success of catheter-directed therapy in early trials warrants further investigation into using these therapies in the treatment of perioperative submassive pulmonary emboli.

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