Pulmonary tumor embolization as early manifestation in patients with renal cell carcinoma and tumor thrombus: Perioperative management and outcomes

Giuseppe Serena, Javier Gonzalez, Jeffrey Gaynor, Tomas Salerno, Roberto Verzaro, Gaetano Ciancio

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Background: Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) with tumor thrombus extending into the inferior vena cava (IVC) occurs in 4%-10% of cases. Within this subset, pulmonary tumor embolism (PTE) appears in approximately 0.9%-2.4% of cases. We wanted to review our experience in managing patients with RCC with IVC involvement and a preoperative diagnosis of PTE. Methods: A total of seven patients presented at our center between January, 2005 and January, 2015 with RCC, IVC involvement, and PTE (diagnosed either by chest computerized tomography angiography or preoperative transesophageal echocardiogram). Each patient underwent a radical nephrectomy and tumor thrombectomy using an organ transplant-based approach. Results: Surgical removal of the PTE was performed in three patients (tumor embolectomy in two cases, right lower lobe resection in one case); the PTEs in four patients were considered to be too small to undergo surgical resection. PTE pathology found neoplastic cells in each patient that had surgical removal. No postoperative complications were observed in any of the seven patients. All four patients who were metastasis-free preoperatively (with 2/4 having tumor embolectomy performed) developed distant metastasis; median time-to-developing metastatic disease was 6.5 months. With a median follow-up of 19 months, three deaths because the disease have occurred. Conclusion: Although RCC with IVC tumor thrombus complicated by PTE may not be catastrophic in most cases, it appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing metastatic disease. In addition, as the PTEs appear to contain neoplastic cells, pulmonary artery embolectomy at the time of nephrectomy should be performed whenever possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of cardiac surgery
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • embolectomy
  • pulmonary tumor embolus
  • renal cell carcinoma
  • vena cava thrombus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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