Background: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has been used in patients with circulatory collapse or extremely unstable hemodynamics caused by acute massive pulmonary embolism (PE). The effectiveness of simultaneous thrombolytic therapy has been rarely investigated in these patients after being stabilized with ECMO. Methods: From January 2008 to December 2018 consecutive patients with acute massive PE requiring ECMO supported in a tertiary medical center were included for retrospective analysis. Results: Thirteen patients with PE underwent ECMO implantation and received subsequent thrombolytic therapy as a definite treatment for PE. All patients survived their ECMO courses to a successful decannulation, with a mean ECMO support duration of 6.23 ± 4.69 days. Eleven patients (84.62%) survived to hospital discharge. All survivors were alive during follow-up, although 2 patients (18.2%) had permanent dysfunctional neurologic complications. Major bleeding complications occurred in 4 patients (30.77%), whereas no patient had intracranial hemorrhage. Systemic thrombolysis showed comparable outcomes of catheter-directed thrombolysis in our patients who underwent ECMO. Conclusions: Thrombolysis-based therapeutic strategy under ECMO could be a relatively safe and effective definitive treatment for patients with acute massive PE, even for those who were resuscitated. Bleeding complications remain a major concern and should be monitored and managed immediately.
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