Objectives: The goal of this study was to assess the short- and long-term efficacy of different thrombolytic therapy regimens in patients with leg or pelvic deep venous thrombosis (DVT).
Background: It is unclear whether locoregional or systemic thrombolysis is superior in treating acute leg DVT or even whether lysis is more effective than anticoagulation therapy in preventing postthrombotic syndrome.
Methods: A total of 250 patients averaging 40 years of age with acute DVT were randomized into five groups to receive full heparinization (1,000 IU/h) and compression treatment, with four groups also administered locoregional tissue plasminogen activator (20 mg/day) or urokinase (100,000 IU/day) or systemic streptokinase (3,000,000 IU daily) or urokinase (5,000,000 IU daily). All groups then received anticoagulation and compression treatment for one year. Primary efficacy criteria included the change after one year in the number of closed vein segments and the occurrence of postthrombotic syndrome.
Results: Systemic thrombolytic therapy significantly reduced the number of closed vein segments after 12 months in patients with acute DVT compared with conventional treatment (p < 0.05). Postthrombotic syndrome also occurred with less frequency in systemically treated patients versus controls (p < 0.001). High-dose thrombolysis led to better rates of complete recanalization after seven days (p < 0.01) than locoregional lysis. However, 12 patients receiving thrombolysis (9 systemic, 3 local) suffered major bleeding complications; 9 patients on systemic treatment developed pulmonary emboli.
Conclusions: Systemic thrombolytic treatment for acute DVT achieved a significantly better short- and long-term clinical outcome than conventional heparin/anticoagulation therapy but at the expense of a serious increase in major bleeding and pulmonary emboli. Given the inherent risks for such serious complications, systemic thrombolysis, although effective, should be used selectively in limb-threatening thrombotic situations.