This article reviews the different thrombolytic agents currently available and the different mechanisms by which they activate the body's fibrinolytic system. The discussion is confined to the approach to the patient with venous thromboembolism using the different thrombolytic agents. Data are presented supporting the use of thrombolytic therapy and its long-term benefits, especially in patients with pulmonary embolism. A substantial portion of this article is devoted to practical considerations involved in the administration of thrombolytic therapy.
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