Patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure caused by clotting in the blood vessels of the lungs) may be eligible for pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE) surgery to remove the clots. The result of this surgery is often curative.
The procedure involves placing the patient on a heart-lung machine to keep blood circulating, then cutting through the breastbone (sternum) to expose the heart and lungs. Once this is done, the patient’s blood is cooled to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which slows down the metabolism and allows the surgeons to periodically turn off the heart-lung machine. This gives them time to open the affected arteries and veins and remove the blood clots (and the scar tissue that has built up around the clots). Once the clots are removed and the patient’s blood has been warmed to a normal temperature, the patient’s heart and lungs are returned to normal function.
Surgery for PTE is a highly complex procedure, and should only be performed by skilled and practiced physicians. The specially trained surgeons and heart failure specialist of the Temple Pulmonary Hypertension, Right Heart Failure and Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy Program are among a select few in the country with the degree of experience required to perform and medically manage patients undergoing this advanced procedure. We are one of the only centers on the East Coast that handles a high volume of these surgeries each year.