Thrombolytic therapy in pregnancy

J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2006 Jun;21(3):271-6. doi: 10.1007/s11239-006-5709-z.


Pregnancy due to its physiological changes is a procoagulant state. The rate of cardiac valve prosthesis thrombosis, deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are all increased. Thrombolytic therapy with tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) is an approved therapy for ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism and thrombosis of cardiac valve prosthesis. However, there are no data from controlled randomized trials in pregnant patients. Thrombolytic therapy has been rarely used in pregnancy with only 28 cases of rt-PA thrombolysis reported in the literature so far. Indications for rt-PA thrombolysis were stroke (n = 10), thrombosis of cardiac valve prosthesis (n = 7), pulmonary embolism (n = 7), deep venous thrombosis (n = 3), and myocardial infarction (n = 1). Remarkably, all thrombosis of cardiac valve prostheses occurred after switching from warfarin to heparin in order to prevent teratogenicity and fetal loss. Two patients died (7%) and three suffered from complications that were managed conservatively (11%). In another three patients thrombolysis was not successful. Thrombolysis complication rates were similar compared to non-pregnant patients for the above mentioned indications. Six out of the 26 fetus from surviving mothers died (23%), three of them after induced abortion for maternal reasons (12%). A likely causal relation to the prior thrombolysis could only be established in two fetal fatalities (8%). None of the live born children suffered a permanent deficit. Considering that rt-PA does not cross the placenta and taking into account that the complication rates do not exceed those of large randomised controlled trials thrombolytic therapy should not be withheld in pregnant patients in case of life-threatening or potentially debilitating thrombembolic disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / drug therapy
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / drug therapy
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Thrombolytic Therapy*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use*


  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator