Massive Pulmonary Embolism

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a staff emergency physician in Hamilton, Ontario and the Simulation Director of McMaster University’s FRCP-EM program. She is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EmSimCases.

Why it Matters

The management of massive pulmonary embolism is one that requires rapid action and decisive decision-making, often based on less information than one would like. This case highlights several key features of the management of a massive PE, including:

  • The importance of recognizing the signs of PE and using basic bedside investigations to aid in diagnosis when a patient is too unstable for confirmatory CT
  • The need to maintain quality ACLS care when a patient arrests, regardless of arrest etiology
  • The use of thrombolytics during cardiac arrest to treat a suspected pulmonary embolism

Clinical Vignette

A 46 year old male presents to the ED complaining of shortness of breath and pleuritic chest pain. He broke his ankle a week ago and has been in a cast since. He was just discharged home after operative repair 2 days ago.

Case Summary

A 46 year old male with a cast on his left leg from a bad ankle fracture presents to the ED complaining of pleuritic chest pain and shortness of breath. The team will take a history and start workup when the patient will suddenly state he’s “not feeling well” and then arrest. The team will perform ACLS consistent with the PEA algorithm and should consider IV thrombolytics. If IV thrombolytics are administered, the patient will have ROSC.

Download the case here: Pulmonary Embolism

ECG for the case found here:

ecg-massive-pte

(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/ECG-Massive-PTE.jpg)

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:

Post-Intubation

Post Intubation

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Cardiac U/S showing right heart strain found here:

(U/S courtesy of the McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

Cardiac U/S showing cardiac standstill found here:

(U/S courtesy of the McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

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