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A Decision Algorithm in the Management of Pulmonary Embolism

Updated: Jan 10

Therapies for acute pulmonary embolism are determined based on the risk of death, risk of bleeding, and response to initial therapy. Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) streamline the care of acute pulmonary embolism as they merge the expertise of a variety of specialists, in real time to assist the primary providers with patient evaluation and enhanced clinical decision making.

The Risk of death is increased with hemodynamic instability. Patients with persistent hypotension with systolic blood pressure (SBP) <90 mmHg, vasopressor support, or a drop of ≥ 40 mmHg from baseline for more than 15 minutes, are considered to have a higher risk of death. In the absence of hemodynamic instability, those patients with evidence of right ventricular (RV) dilatation or dysfunction (echocardiography of CT findings) and/or elevated biochemical markers (troponin or brain natriuretic peptide) are at higher risk of death compared to those patients who lack such evidence. Other parameters that can supplement the available information and give the clinician more assurance of increased risk of death if present: a simplified pulmonary embolism severity index (sPESI) (age >80 years, history of cancer, chronic cardiopulmonary disease, pulse ≥110/min, systolic blood pressure <100 mmHg, or arterial oxygen saturation <90%), respiratory distress, lower extremity deep venous thrombosis, cardiac thrombus, or extensive clot burden (e.g,, large perfusion defects on ventilation/perfusion scan or extensive embolic burden on chest computed tomography). Patients with higher risk of death are good candidates for thrombolytic therapy or for catheter-directed interventions.

The Risk of bleeding should be evaluated relative to the strength of the indication. Patients with absolute contraindications and high risk of death, societal guidelines suggest catheter-directed therapies (i.e., ultrasound, saline, rotational device, or suction). Patients with moderate risk of bleeding and high risk of death can be considered for catheter-directed therapy (CDT) with or without thrombolytic therapy. Inferior vena cava filter can be considered in those patients. In the absence of high risk or intermediate risk of bleeding, systemic thrombolysis should be considered for hemodynamically unstable patients and CDT for hemodynamically stable patients at higher risk of death.

If the risk of death is determined to be low (absence of hemodynamic instability, normal RV function, and no elevated biomarkers) and in the absence of contraindication to anticoagulation, subcutaneous LMW heparin or fondaparinux, or the oral factor Xa inhibitors, rivaroxaban or apixaban, are preferred over intravenous UFH.

Response to initial therapy should be determined based on the resolution of hemodynamic instability within 2-4 hours of thrombolytic therapy. Catheter-directed thrombolytic intervention and/or clot removal interventions can be an escalation modality for those patients. Patients who deemed appropriate for anticoagulation should be monitored for signs of deterioration (hemodynamic instability, worsening oxygenation, or RV dysfunction) and if present, they should be evaluated for thrombolytic therapy and possibly catheter-directed interventions.

When deciding for catheter-directed interventions, multiple factors need to be taken into consideration including the size, age, risk, and location of the clot. Multiple interventions are present and selection of one of them is determined y the specific expertise in the hospital.

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6 commentaires

direct to the point,thanks

in case of arrest how long do you recommend to continue cpr?


Great review and analysis of a complex disease.

one of the difficulties we face is that patients may shift among different risk categories. Therefore, trending vital signs is quite helpful to early pick a large clot PE patient who may deteriorate from low intermediate risk to a high intermediate risk submassive or massive PE in matter of hours.

So, admission of patients to the ICU for monitoring is something different from a need to do more than anticoagulation because they are there.

please use the flow chart to help categorize and guide your choices. Also, the interactive link may guide you to select better choices.



omar rabi
omar rabi
16 déc. 2021

Thank you for the nice post.

I have one question about the duration after thrombolitic therapy “ 3hr” if failed then to proceed for other modality,what’s the evidence on that ?

En réponse à

Thank you very much, I faced 3 cases with failure of systemic thrombolysis and it was difficult for me when to move to the next modality of treatment . I am happy to have time frame 🙏

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