Conference Coverage

PERT alerts improve pulmonary embolism outcomes



– One year after implementation, a pulmonary embolism response team (PERT) is making a significant difference in care of patients with submassive pulmonary embolism and evidence of right ventricular (RV) dysfunction at the Christiana Medical Center in Delaware. An analysis of data collected showed reductions in ICU stays, early death, and overall hospital length of stay.

ICU monitor Andrei Malov/Thinkstock

Such patients pose a challenge to clinicians because some will go on to develop more serious pulmonary embolism (PE), yet aggressive treatment options carry their own risk. Existing guidelines, such as those by the European Society of Cardiology, recommend conservative treatment of these patients, with more aggressive measures if conditions don’t quickly improve.

However, about 12% of patients on conservative therapy die, or about 100,000 per year. Those patients who go on to have bad outcomes “are obviously intermediate high risk or high risk. This is the patient population that we’re interested in [addressing through PERT]. These aren’t really sick patients. The blood pressure is normal, but they have the risk based on comorbidities or the clot burden to do poorly over the next day or two,” said Michael Benninghoff, DO, section chief of medical critical care and director of respiratory therapy at Christiana Medical Center, Wilmington, Del. Dr. Benninghoff presented the study at the Critical Care Congress sponsored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

The PERT concept was developed by physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. It establishes clinical criteria that, if met, prompt a PERT alert, which in turn triggers a meeting between the initiating provider, a pulmonary intensivist, and a vascular and interventional radiology physician within 15 minutes to review the case and make rapid clinical decisions.

A PERT alert requires either a CT diagnosis of PE or a VQ scan showing a high probability of PE, combined with one of three additional criteria: elevated B-type (brain) natriuretic peptide (BNP) and troponin; echocardiographic evidence of right ventricular dysfunction; or clinical instability as indicated by heart rate over 110 beats per minute, systolic blood pressure below 100 mm Hg, or oxygen saturation lower than 90%.

The PERT program caught Dr. Benninghoff’s attention because of institutional experience with patients deteriorating on conservative treatment, but also because the treatment of submassive PE with RV dysfunction is quite scattered. “We were seeing really conservative to really aggressive treatment. I don’t think we’ve had the data to support treating a patient whose blood pressure is normal but they have signs of right ventricular dysfunction, whether it’s echocardiographic, radiographic, or laboratory evidence of myocardial necrosis. I don’t think we have a group conscience as providers as far as how aggressive to be with those patients,” said Dr. Benninghoff.

To examine the efficacy of the PERT program after 1 year, Dr. Benninghoff’s team reviewed all PE cases from 2016 (pre-PERT, n = 717) and 2017 (post-PERT, n = 752). The mortality index declined 30%, from 1.13 to 0.79, while the percentage of early death declined 52%, from 2.51 to 1.20. The mean number of ICU days fell from 5.01 to 4.40.

When the team restricted the analysis to PE lysis patients (n = 27 in 2016; n = 33 in 2017), the mean length of ICU stay dropped from 66.1 hours to 58.8 hours, and fewer patients were transferred from a lower level of care to the ICU (6 vs. 3).

“We think we have shown that just by talking in real time, forcing physicians to communicate – it certainly doesn’t hurt, that it probably helps with ICU utilization and perhaps even mortality,” said Dr. Benninghoff.

The results are far from definitive, and much more work needs to be done to determine how best to manage patients with submassive PEs and RV dysfunction. Dr. Benninghoff doesn’t have the answers, but he’s hopeful that the PERT program can eventually provide some. “Probably the most important thing is we’re giving back to the medical community by enrolling in the consortium, putting our data in the hands of the Boston research institute, and seeing what comes of it. Hopefully in 5 years we will have a standard of care based on the work we’re doing now,” he said.

The study was funded internally. Dr. Benninghoff declared no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Benninghoff M. Critical Care Congress 2019, Abstract 490.

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