Thrombolytics in Cardiac Arrest from Pulmonary Embolism: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of intensive care medicine




antithrombotic drugs; cardiac arrest; critical illness; outcomes; resuscitation


BACKGROUND: During cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intravenous thrombolytics are commonly used for patients whose underlying etiology of cardiac arrest is presumed to be related to pulmonary embolism (PE). METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing literature that focused on the use of thrombolytics for cardiac arrest due to presumed or confirmed PE. Outcomes of interest were return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), survival to hospital discharge, neurologically-intact survival, and bleeding complications. RESULTS: Thirteen studies with a total of 803 patients were included in this review. Most studies included were single-armed and retrospective. Thrombolytic agent and dose were heterogeneous between studies. Among those with control groups, intravenous thrombolysis was associated with higher rates of ROSC (OR 2.55, 95% CI = 1.50-4.34), but without a significant difference in survival to hospital discharge (OR 1.41, 95% CI = 0.79-2.41) or bleeding complications (OR 2.21, 0.95-5.17). CONCLUSIONS: Use of intravenous thrombolytics in cardiac arrest due to confirmed or presumed PE is associated with increased ROSC but not survival to hospital discharge or change in bleeding complications. Larger randomized studies are needed. Currently, we recommend continuing to follow existing consensus guidelines which support use of thrombolytics for this indication.


Emergency Medicine