Pulmonary embolism in the cardiac surgical patient

A. Marc Gillinov, Elizabeth A. Davis, Anthony J. Alberg, Mary Rykiel, Timothy J. Gardner, Duke E. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Pulmonary embolism (PE) is thought to occur infrequently after cardiac operations, possibly because systemic heparinization during cardiopulmonary bypass prevents deep vein thrombosis. This retrospective study was undertaken to determine the actual incidence of PE after cardiac operations and to identify risk factors. Between January 1, 1985, and December 31, 1989, 5,694 adult patients (>18 years old) had open heart operations at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Thirty-two patients (20 men and 12 women) had PE within 60 days of operation, an overall PE incidence of 0.56%. The diagnosis of PE was established by ventilation/perfusion scan, pulmonary angiogram, or autopsy. Mortality among patients with PE was 34%. Using a case-control method, preoperative and postoperative risk factors for PE were identified by multivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses. Preoperative risk factors included bed rest (p < 0.003), prolonged hospitalization before operation (p < 0.004), and cardiac catheterization performed through the groin within 15 days before operation (p < 0.01). Postoperative risk factors were congestive heart failure (p < 0.008), prolonged bed rest (p < 0.05), and deep vein thrombosis (p < 0.03). This study demonstrates that PE is an unusual complication after cardiac operations, has a high mortality rate, and is often related to perioperative immobility and recent groin catheterization. These results also suggest that minimizing preoperative hospital stay may be important in PE prophylaxis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-991
Number of pages4
JournalThe Annals of thoracic surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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