Catheter-directed thrombolysis for intermediate-risk pulmonary embolism

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Intermediate-risk pulmonary embolism is common and carries a risk of progression to hemodynamic collapse and death. Catheter-directed thrombolysis is an increasingly used treatment option, based largely on the assumptions that it is more efficacious than anticoagulation alone and safer than systemic thrombolysis. In this review, we critically analyze the published data regarding catheter-directed thrombolysis for the treatment of intermediate-risk pulmonary embolism. Catheter-directed thrombolysis reduces right heart strain and lowers pulmonary artery pressures more quickly than anticoagulation alone. The mortality for patients with intermediate-risk pulmonary embolism treated with catheter-directed thrombolysis is low, between 0% and 4%. However, similarly low mortality is seen with anticoagulation alone. Catheter-directed thrombolysis appears to be safer than systemic thrombolysis, and procedural complications are uncommon. Bleeding risk appears to be slightly higher than with anticoagulation alone. Randomized, controlled trials are needed to compare the efficacy and safety of catheter-directed thrombolysis versus anticoagulation for intermediate-risk pulmonary embolism. There is no evidence that catheter-directed thrombolysis decreases the incidence of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. There is no evidence from clinical studies that ultrasound-assisted thrombolysis is more effective or safer than standard catheter-directed thrombolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-144
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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