Efficacy and safety of flow-directed pulmonary artery catheter thrombolysis for treatment of submassive pulmonary embolism

Ron C. Gaba, Madhu S. Gundavaram, Ahmad Parvinian, M. Grace Knuttinen, Jeet Minocha, Charles A. Owens, James T. Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of flow-directed catheter thrombolysis for treatment of submassive pulmonary embolism (PE). MATERIALS AND METHODS. In this single-institution retrospective study, 19 patients (nine men and 10 women; mean age [± SD], 54 ± 13 years) with submassive PE underwent catheter-directed thrombolysis between 2009 and 2013. Presenting symptoms included dyspnea in 18 of 19 (95%) cases. Submassive PE was diagnosed by pulmonary CT arteriography and right ventricular strain. PE was bilateral in 17 of 19 (89%) and unilateral in two of 19 (11%) cases. Thrombolysis was performed via a pulmonary artery (PA) catheter infusing 0.5-1.0 mg alteplase per hour and was continued to complete or near complete clot dissolution with reduction in PA pressure. IV systemic heparin was administered. Measured outcomes included procedural success, PA pressure reduction, clinical success, survival, and adverse events. RESULTS. Procedural success, defined as successful PA catheter placement, fibrinolytic agent delivery, PA pressure reduction, and achievement of complete or near complete clot dissolution, was achieved in 18 of 19 (95%) cases. Thrombolysis required 57 ± 31 mg of alteplase administered over 89 ± 32 hours. Initial and final PA pressures were 30 ± 10 mm Hg and 20 ± 8 mm Hg (p < 0.001). All 18 (100%) technically successful cases achieved clinical success because all patients experienced symptomatic improvement. Eighteen of 19 (95%) patients survived to hospital discharge; 18 of 19 (95%) and 15 of 16 (94%) patients had documented 1-month and 3-month survival. One fatal case of intracranial hemorrhage was attributed to supratherapeutic anticoagulation because normal fibrinogen levels did not suggest remote fibrinolysis; procedural success was not achieved in this case because of early thrombolysis termination. No other complications were encountered. CONCLUSION. Among a small patient cohort, flow-directed catheter thrombolysis with alteplase effectively dissolved submassive PE and reduced PA pressure. Postprocedure short-term survival was high, and patients undergoing thrombolysis required close observation for bleeding events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1355-1360
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis
  • Efficacy
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Safety
  • Submassive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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