A review of research suggests that catheter-directed interventions (CDIs) have fewer complications but are not necessarily better at preventing mortality than are standard treatments for pulmonary embolisms, according to Dr. Efthymios D. Avgerinos and Dr. Rabih A. Chaer of the University of Pittsburgh.

Of 594 patients with massive pulmonary embolisms (PEs) who received various forms of CDI, 86.5% survived (range, 40%-100%), according to a systematic review of 35 noncontrolled studies.

“In 95% of these patients, CDIs were initiated without prior intravenous thrombolysis,” while 60%-67% of the patients also received a thrombolytic agent during the procedure, they wrote. The patient survival rate was 91.2% in studies that provided at least 80% of their patients with local thrombolytic therapy during a CDI, compared with 82.8% in studies in which less than 80% of participants received thrombolytic therapy.

Not all findings, however, suggested that it was more favorable for the patients to receive the thrombolytic therapy, Overall, the pooled rates of major and minor complications were 7.9% and 2.4%, respectively. The 25 major complications reported included bleeding complications requiring transfusion, renal failure requiring hemodialysis, cardiopulmonary events, cerebrovascular events, and death.

Other research on CDIs found that right ventricle dilation was reversed in patients with submassive PEs who received fixed-dose, ultrasound-assisted, catheter-directed thrombosis combined with anticoagulation. According to the recently published randomized controlled trial, which compared the effects of fixed-dose, ultrasound-assisted, catheter-directed thrombosis and anticoagulation to anticoagulation alone, the mean right-to-left-ventricle ratio was reduced for patients in the CDI group after 1 day. Such a change did not occur in the control group, but at 90 days, the average ratio “became comparable between the two groups … with a trend in favor of the [CDI],” according to Dr. Avgerinos and Dr. Chaer. None of this study’s participants suffered from major bleeding complications.

“There is increasing evidence that percutaneous CDIs are an essential, effective and safe alternative to systemic thrombolysis or anticoagulation in the contemporary management of massive and submassive PE,” the reviewers noted. More research is needed to confirm the differences in the outcomes between using systemic thrombolysis and catheter-based techniques for treating PEs, as no clinical trial comparing CDIs with systemic thrombolysis for PE has been done, they added.

Read the full review of research in the Journal of Vascular Surgery (doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2014.10.036).