LOS ANGELES (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Initial outcomes measures are beginning to emerge from Pulmonary Embolism Response Teams.

Members of the Cleveland Clinic’s PERT, which was established in 2014, presented some of their preliminary data during a presentation at the CHEST annual meeting.

Their findings indicate that “our residents, staff, and clinicians [understand] the utility of the PERT team and when and how to activate it. We have [documented that our approaches have] been associated with overall low bleeding risks,” study presenter Jamal Mahar, MD, said in an interview.

The concept behind the PERT is to rapidly mobilize a team with varied expertise helpful for treating patients with pulmonary embolisms (PEs). While the PERT “can be activated by any (clinician) for any patient, even low-risk patients … those with submassive and massive PEs [intermediate- and high-risk patients]” are the target patients, said Dr. Mahar of the Cleveland Clinic.

The first PERT was created at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 2012, according to the National Consortium of Pulmonary Embolism Response Team’s website . As of May 2015, the PERT model has been adopted by physicians and health care professionals from more than 40 institutions.

Dr. Mahar reported that the Cleveland Clinic’s PERT is activated through a single pager that resides with a vascular medicine fellow during the day and a critical care fellow at night. When paged, the fellow promptly evaluates the patient and ensures a complete basic work-up, which includes an ECG, cardiac enzymes, N-terminal pro b-type natriuretic peptide, lower-extremity deep vein thrombosis scans, transthoracic echocardiogram, and confirmatory CT/PE protocol or ventilation/perfusion scan.

Based on the simplified Pulmonary Embolism Severity Index and Bova scores, the patient is risk stratified and the patient’s indications, and relative and absolute contraindications to advanced therapies are reviewed. The fellow next sends a group notification to the PERT via email and text message. The team then convenes online for a virtual meeting and case presentation that includes sharing of lab and test results and images.

The process sounds complex, but the surgeon, interventional radiologist, vascular medicine specialist, and cardiologist are on call and simultaneously get the message and respond, Dr. Mahar said. With a team approach, the decision to use advanced therapies – systemic lytics, surgery, catheter-directed lysis and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – is expedited. “For example, over the last 2 years, four out of four patients who underwent surgical embolectomies had good outcomes without any deaths,” he said.

Based on a retrospective chart review from October 2014 through August 2016, Cleveland Clinic’s PERT had been activated for 134 patients, 112 of whom were found to have PEs, Dr. Mahar said during his presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST).

The number of low risk, submassive, and massive PEs were 14 (12%), 76 (68%), and 22 (20%), respectively. Just over half of the PE patients, 55% (60 patients), were treated with anticoagulation therapy alone. Inferior vena cava filters were placed in 32 patients (29%); 14 patients received catheter-directed thrombolysis, 3 received a suction thrombectomy, and 4 received a surgical embolectomy.

The 30-day all-cause mortality rate was 9%; the deaths occurred in six patients who had massive PEs, three patients with submassive PEs, and one patient with a low-risk PE. Six of the patients who died had been treated with anticoagulation, two had received catheter-directed thrombolysis, and one had received a full dose of systemic thrombolysis.

Bleeding complications occurred in 10 patients, 6 of whom were treated with anticoagulation alone and 4 of whom underwent catheter-directed thrombolysis.

Cleveland Clinic is a large entity with multiple resources, but the principles of PERT can be applied in smaller facilities, as well, according to Gustavo A. Heresi-Davila, MD , medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s pulmonary thromboendarterectomy program and the lead researcher for the PERT project at the clinic. “I would emphasize the notion that a PERT has to be multidisciplinary, as people with different backgrounds and expertise bring complementary talent to the discussion of each case. I would not minimize the challenges of assembling such a team,” he said during an interview following the meeting.

The moderator of the meeting session, Robert Schilz, DO, PhD , noted, that the goal of PERT is to determine the best approach for an individual patient based on available resources. To establish a PERT, “you don’t have to be able to put a patient on ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] in 15 minutes, and you don’t have to be able to do endarterectomies, embolectomies, and all the catheter-drive techniques emergently. But you do need to have the disposition to have efficient and standardized care, and the solutions may need to be very geographic. What hospital A may do may be very different from hospital B.”

Small hospitals can draw on their available resources, added Dr. Schilz, director of pulmonary vascular disease and lung transplantation at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. “Most hospitals have cardiologists on call 24/7, and many have some flavor of interventional radiology; others have clear referral and transfer schemes. Emergency department personnel at small rural hospitals can rapidly identify patients appropriate for transfer.”

Dr. Mahar added that PERTs are already being utilized in smaller hospitals and that he thinks that, in the next 5 years, having a PERT will be the standard protocol.

Dr. Mahar reported no disclosures.

Mary Jo Dales contributed to this report.


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