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Paper Chase

Alteplase versus heparin in acute pulmonary embolism: randomised trial assessing right-ventricular function and pulmonary perfusion.

Lancet. Feb 27, 1993;341(8844):507-11.
Goldhaber SZ, Haire WD, Feldstein ML, Miller M, Toltzis R, Smith JL, Taveira da Silva AM, Come PC, Lee RT, Parker JA.

Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Data from a non-randomised study have hinted that in patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE), thrombolysis followed by heparin more rapidly reverses right-ventricular dysfunction and restores pulmonary tissue perfusion than does heparin alone. We have pursued this idea in a randomised protocol. 46 haemodynamically stable patients were randomised to recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (alteplase, rt-PA) 100 mg over 2 h followed by intravenous heparin and 55 to heparin alone. Right-ventricular wall motion was assessed qualitatively, and right-ventricular end diastolic area was estimated by planimetry from echocardiograms at baseline and at 3 and 24 hours. Pulmonary perfusion scans were obtained at baseline and 24 hours. In 39% of rt-PA patients but in only 17% of heparin alone patients right-ventricular wall motion at 24 hours had improved from baseline and in 2% and 17%, respectively, it worsened (p = 0.005). rt-PA patients also had a significant decrease in right-ventricular end-diastolic area during the 24 hours after randomisation and a significant absolute improvement in pulmonary perfusion (14.6% vs 1.5%). No clinical episodes of recurrent PE were noted among rt-PA patients, but there were 2 fatal and 3 non-fatal clinically suspected recurrent PEs within 14 days in patients randomised to heparin alone. rt-PA rapidly improves right-ventricular function and pulmonary perfusion among patients with PE and may lead to a lower rate of adverse clinical outcomes.