The American College of Emergency Physicians has revised its 2003 clinical policy on pulmonary embolism.
Among the areas considered is the the role of thrombolytic medication. The policy provides the following recommendations to this question:
What are the indications for thrombolytic therapy in patients with PE?
Level B recommendations
Administer thrombolytic therapy in hemodynamically unstable patients with confirmed PE for whom the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks of life-threatening bleeding complications.*
*In centers with the capability for surgical or mechanical thrombectomy, procedural intervention may be used as an alternative therapy.
Level C recommendations
(1) Consider thrombolytic therapy in hemodynamically unstable patients with a high clinical suspicion for PE for whom the diagnosis of PE cannot be confirmed in a timely manner.
(2) At this time, there is insufficient evidence to make any recommendations regarding use of thrombolytics in any subgroup of hemodynamically stable patients. Thrombolytics have been demonstrated to result in faster improvements in right ventricular function and pulmonary perfusion, but these benefits have not translated to improvements in mortality.
The document contains a detailed appraisal of the literature to date on benefits and harms from thrombolysis. Of interest is the Pulmonary Embolism Severity Index (PESI) – a scoring system that appears to reliably predict mortality and thus has the potential to assist physicians in making risk-benefit decisions when considering administration of thrombolytics. The full text of the policy, which covers far more than just thrombolysis, can be found by following the link below.
Critical Issues in the Evaluation and Management of Adult Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department With Suspected Pulmonary Embolism
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2011 June 57(6):628-652 – Free Full Text