Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the leading cause of in-hospital death and the third most frequent cause of cardiovascular death. The clinical presentation of PE is variable, and choosing the appropriate treatment for individual patients can be challenging. Traditionally, treatment of PE has involved a choice of anticoagulation, thrombolysis or surgery; however, a range of percutaneous interventional technologies have been developed that are under investigation in patients with intermediate-high-risk or high-risk PE. These interventional technologies include catheter-directed thrombolysis (with or without ultrasound assistance), aspiration thrombectomy and combinations of the aforementioned principles. These interventional treatment options might lead to a more rapid improvement in right ventricular function and pulmonary and/or systemic haemodynamics in particular patients. However, evidence from randomized controlled trials on the safety and efficacy of these interventions compared with conservative therapies is lacking. In this Review, we discuss the underlying pathophysiology of PE, provide assistance with decision-making on patient selection and critically appraise the available clinical evidence on interventional, catheter-based approaches for PE treatment. Finally, we discuss future perspectives and unmet needs.
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