Care of patients with acute pulmonary emboli: A clinical review with cardiovascular focus

Jeffrey B. Geske, Sean B. Smith, Timothy I. Morgenthaler, Sunil V. Mankad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common, multidisciplinary disease with substantial associated morbidity, mortality and healthcare expense. In this article we present a succinct review of diagnostic tools, risk stratification and medical therapies for cardiovascular care of patients with acute PE. While pulmonary angiography remains the 'gold standard for diagnosis, a host of diagnostic modalities, interpreted in the setting of clinical probability, are available for patient assessment, including ECG, chest radiography, D-dimer, lower-extremity venous ultrasound, ventilation-perfusion scans, computed tomography and magnetic resonance angiography, and echocardiography, each with associated value. Diagnostic algorithms incorporate multiple tools in order to obtain a more comprehensive evaluation. Therapeutic anticoagulation remains the mainstay of therapy in PE. In massive PE, utilization of thrombolysis is reasonable in the absence of contraindications. Submassive PE, characterized by right ventricular dysfunction as assessed by echocardiography and ECG, is associated with higher mortality. Use of thrombolysis in submassive PE remains controversial. Catheter-directed therapies are emerging as an added approach to acute PE and have the potential to improve outcomes in PE. Use of inferior vena cava filters should be pursued in a select patient population as they serve to reduce recurrent acute PE; however, they are associated with more frequent deep venous thrombosis and provide no mortality benefit. In risk-stratified hemodynamically stable patients, an outpatient management strategy inclusive of therapeutic anticoagulation and careful clinical follow-up may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-250
Number of pages16
JournalExpert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Diagnosis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Risk stratification
  • Thrombolysis
  • Treatment
  • Venous thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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