Patients presenting with saddle pulmonary emboli (PE) versus nonsaddle PE have no mortality difference but have an increased risk for decompensation


Background: Patients with saddle PEs can differ in terms of their clinical presentation and may present as hemodynamically stable or unstable. There have been few studies to quantify the presentation, management, and outcome of patients who present with saddle PEs.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Quaternary care hospital in Minnesota.

Synopsis: Using a localized database, 187 consecutive patients with saddle PEs were matched with 187 nonsaddle PEs using age and the simplified Pulmonary Embolism Severity Index (sPESI). Saddle PE patients had no significant in-hospital mortality differences versus nonsaddle PEs. However, they were more likely to present with massive and submassive hemodynamics (80% vs. 52%; P less than .05), RV dilatation (84% vs. 67%; P less than .001), and troponin elevation (71% vs. 40%; P less than .001). Patients with saddle PEs were more likely to receive thrombolytics, inferior vena cava filter placement, and require mechanical ventilation. They also had increased risk of decompensation after 6 hours (12 patients vs. 6 patients). Limitations of this study include some selection bias and use of a single-center study. Regardless, hospitalists should consider close monitoring for patients with saddle PEs upon admission, independent of hemodynamics given risk of decompensation regardless of presenting vitals.

Bottom line: Saddle PEs have an increased risk of late decompensation, clot burden, and presentation with massive and submassive hemodynamics but not an increased risk of mortality when compared with nonsaddle PEs.

Citation: Alkinj B et al. Saddle vs. nonsaddle pulmonary embolism: Clinical presentation, hemodynamics, management, and outcomes. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017 Oct;92(10):1511-8.

Dr. Christopher M. O'Donnell, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hospital medicine, Emory University, Atlanta.

Dr. Christopher M. O'Donnell

Dr. O’Donnell is assistant professor of medicine in the division of hospital medicine, Emory University, Atlanta.

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