The effect of intravenous recombinant human tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) was compared with that of urokinase in 45 patients with angiographically documented pulmonary embolism (PE) in a randomised controlled trial. The two principal end-points were clot lysis at 2 h, as assessed by angiography, and pulmonary reperfusion at 24 h, as assessed by perfusion lung scanning. All patients received the full dose of rt-PA but urokinase infusions were terminated prematurely (on average after 18 h) in 9 patients because of allergy in 1 and uncontrollable bleeding in 8. By 2 h, 82% of rt-PA-treated patients showed clot lysis, compared with 48% of urokinase-treated patients (p=0·008; 95% CI for the difference = 10-58%). Improvement in lung scan reperfusion at 24 h was identical in the two treatment groups. The reduction in fibrinogen did not differ significantly between the rt-PA and urokinase groups (45% vs 39% at 2 h and 34% vs 40% at 24 h). The results indicate that in the dose regimens employed, rt-PA acts more rapidly and is safer than urokinase in the treatment of acute PE.
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