Drugs Dissolve Blood Clots Treat Embolism

Moderate pulmonary embolism safe to treat with thrombolytic drug tissue plasminogen activator

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Clot-busters used to treat severe cases of pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lungs, can safely treat less serious cases. New research suggests they are safe and effective in treating moderate pulmonary embolism.

Thrombolytic drug tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) is used to dissolve blood clots, but investigators have found that a half dose can safely provide the same benefit for patients with moderate pulmonary embolism. It also led to an earlier hospital discharge, reduced the instances of pulmonary hypertension and lessened recurrent embolisms.

"Stay active and quit smoking to lower your risk of a pulmonary embolism."

Dr. Mohsen Sharifi, director of Arizona Cardiovascular Consultants and the study’s lead investigator, noted that pulmonary embolism can be treated more aggressively, while maintaining safety. Dr. Sharifi said that at least 80 percent of pulmonary embolism patients could benefit from the half dose treatment.

This is because only about 5 percent of patients that suffer a pulmonary embolism are eligible to receive the full t-PA dose because most embolisms are considered moderate. Instead they are usually treated with anticoalgulants.

Researchers enrolled 121 patients with moderate pulmonary embolism in the study. Of those, 61 participants received a half dose of thrombolytic drugs with a modified regimen of anticoagulants. The rest received only blood thinners. They were then followed for 28 months. The therapy was found to be safe and effective, and none of the participants experienced bleeding or major side effects.

Dr. Sharifi noted that offering "safe-dose thrombolysis" to more aggressively treat moderate pulmonary embolism could help prevent patients from developing more serious complications down the road.

“Moderate pulmonary embolism may be the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Sharifi. “These patients might be doing okay initially, but ultimately, in the subsequent few years, they may develop complications.”

The study was self-funded by Arizona Cardiovascular Consultants, and was presented Tuesday at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific sessions.

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Review Date: 
March 27, 2012
Last Updated:
March 28, 2012