Background: Previously, I had given a talk on the use of thrombolytics in submassive PE in 2016. This year, I had the privilege of speaking at ACOEP 2017 again with an update on the critical pulmonary embolism patient. This post will serve as a reference for that talk.
There are many ways to classify pulmonary embolism, but the best clinical definition would depend on the hemodynamic consequences. For example, massive pulmonary embolism can be defined as systemic hypotension (SBP < 90 mmHg or a drop in SBP of at least 40mmHg for at least 15 min) or shock (tissue hypoperfusion, hypoxia, altered mental status, oliguria, or cool clammy extremities.) There is a second subset of patients that also warrant discussion; submassive pulmonary embolism. These patients are defined as lack of systemic hypotension (<90mmHg), but have right ventricular dysfunction/hypokinesis. RV dysfunction tells us that there is severe pulmonary artery obstruction and impending hemodynamic failure. Read more →