Fatal Pulmonary Embolism: When the Cause Is Not a Thrombus

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Abstract

Study Design.

We report a case of pulmonary embolism of polymethylmethacrylate material after percutaneous vertebroplasty.

Objective.

To describe a severe vertebroplasty complication, the pulmonary embolism, which proved to be fatal in a patient with many chronic disabilities.

Summary of Background Data.

Until 2007, the literature noted that the risk of embolism of polymethylmethacrylate after a percutaneous vertebroplasty counted a small number of pulmonary cement embolism and a smaller number of fatal consequences. The most recent research revealed that the risk of a pulmonary cement embolism ranges from 3.5% to 23% for osteoporotic compression fractures.

Methods.

This study is a case report of an 80-year-old patient with multiple medical comorbid factors, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mild renal failure, osteoporosis, and hepatic cirrhosis. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism developed 1 month after a percutaneous vertebroplasty. An echocardiography report suggested that the cement infiltrated the right atrium and the right pulmonary artery, and this was confirmed by a computed tomographic scan. As the therapy with oxygen and low-molecular-weight heparin failed to solve the thrombus, the patient required a surgical tricuspid annuloplasty and the extirpation of the right atrial and right pulmonary masses.

Results.

The course of the operation was complicated by pulmonary infection, and the patient ultimately succumbed to infection/respiratory failure.

Conclusion.

The presence of intravascular/intracardiac foreign bodies is underreported in literature, but it is quite common in clinical practice. We need to discuss the choice of some non–risk-free interventions such as vertebroplasty in older patients already affected by multiple main disabilities.

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