Pulmonary embolectomy is usually performed in cardiopulmonary bypass. In acute situations too much time can be lost in setting up and connecting the pump oxygenator; this delay can cause cerebral damage in a patient with circulatory arrest. In such a situation left anterior thoracotomy can provide an ideal approach. An emergency thoracotomy can be performed in a few seconds. The lung automatically retracts. The phrenic nerve, pulmonary artery, and pericardium are clearly seen, and they outline the area for embolectomy. A case in which such an approach was successfully used is described.