Advanced treatment strategies for acute pulmonary embolism, including thrombolysis and embolectomy


Samuel Z. Goldhaber, Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Tel.: +1 857 307 1932; fax: +1 857 307 1955.


Summary.  The optimal treatment strategy for acute pulmonary embolism relies upon a multidisciplinary team that rapidly assesses available data, performs additional testing if necessary, weighs treatment options, and recommends an appropriate therapeutic plan to the patient and family. Round-the-clock availability is imperative. Centers that specialize in pulmonary embolism management offer a wide range of therapeutic options. Hospitals with more limited facilities should establish pulmonary embolism patient referral and transfer contingency plans that can be activated at a moment’s notice. Management options include anticoagulation alone, thrombolysis plus anticoagulation, insertion of an inferior vena caval filter, catheter embolectomy, or surgical embolectomy. The decision-making process requires accurate risk stratification, which is comprised of several crucial components: clinical evaluation that includes history and physical examination, biomarker measurement especially of troponin, as well as assessment of right ventricular size and function based upon chest CT scanning and echocardiography. The ‘old school’ approach of declaring a benign prognosis based solely upon the presence of normal systemic arterial pressure can delay advanced therapy until after the onset of irreversible cardiogenic shock. We have now formulated a more contemporary, comprehensive, and multifaceted strategy to prognosticate. Our ‘new approach’ uses advanced treatment strategies in addition to anticoagulation for those pulmonary embolism patients deemed to be at high risk for a poor outcome.