Current Clinical Practice

Risk-Adapted Management of Acute Pulmonary Embolism: Recent Evidence, New Guidelines

Anja Käberich, Simone Wärntges, and Stavros Konstantinides


Venous thromboembolism (VTE), the third most frequent acute cardiovascular syndrome, may cause life-threatening complications and imposes a substantial socio-economic burden. During the past years, several landmark trials paved the way towards novel strategies in acute and long-term management of patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE). Risk stratification is increasingly recognized as a central cornerstone for an adequate diagnostic and therapeutic management of the highly heterogeneous population of patients with acute PE. Recently published European Guidelines emphasize the importance of clinical prediction rules in combination with imaging procedures (assessment of right ventricular function) and laboratory biomarkers (indicative of myocardial stress or injury) for identification of normotensive PE patients at intermediate risk for an adverse short-term outcome. In this patient group, systemic full-dose thrombolysis was associated with a significantly increased risk of intracranial bleeding, a complication which discourages its clinical application unless hemodynamic decompensation occurs. A large-scale clinical trial program evaluating new oral anticoagulants in the initial and long-term treatment of venous thromboembolism showed at least comparable efficacy and presumably increased safety of these drugs compared to the current standard treatment. Research is continuing on catheter-directed, ultrasound-assisted, local, low-dose thrombolysis in the management of intermediate-risk PE.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2014;5(4):e0040