Ultrasound-assisted catheter directed thrombolysis for pulmonary embolus during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Cardiac Surgery








ECMO; EKOS; pulmonary embolism


Background: Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is the third most common cause of cardiovascular death. For patients who are hemodynamically unstable, veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) support has been shown to provide hemodynamic stability, and allow time for definitive treatment and recovery. Ultrasound-assisted catheter directed thrombolysis (USAT) has the potential to be a safe adjunct and expedite right ventricular (RV) recovery for patients requiring VA-ECMO for PE. Methods: A review of all VA-ECMO patients from January 2017 to September 2019 was performed. A total of 49 of these patients were cannulated due to a PE. USAT therapy was used as an adjunct in 6 (12%) of these patients. These 6 patients were given standardized USAT therapy with EKOs catheters at 1 mg/h of tissue plasminogen activator with an unfractionated heparin infusion for additional systemic anticoagulation. Outcomes, including in-hospital death, 90-day survival, RV recovery, and complications, were examined in the cohort of patients that received USAT as an adjunct to ECMO. Results: Median age was 54 years old. Five of the six patients presented with a massive PE and had a PE severity score of Class V. One patient presented with a submassive PE with a Bova score of 2, but was cannulated to VA-ECMO in the setting of worsening RV function. All patients demonstrated recovery of RV function, were free from in-hospital death, and were alive at 90-day follow-up. Conclusion: Ekosonic endovascular system therapy may be a safe and feasible adjunct for patients on VA-ECMO for PE, and allow for survival with RV recovery with minimal complications.