Current guidelines recommend systemic thrombolysis as the first-line reperfusion treatment for patients with high-risk pulmonary embolism (PE) who present with cardiogenic shock but do not require venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO). However, little is known about the optimal reperfusion treatment in high-risk PE patients requiring VA-ECMO. We aimed to evaluate whether systemic thrombolysis improved high-risk PE patients’ outcomes who received VA-ECMO.
This was a retrospective cohort study using the Japanese Diagnosis Procedure Combination inpatient database from July 2010 to March 2021. We identified patients who were diagnosed with PE and received VA-ECMO on the day of admission. Patients who received systemic thrombolysis with monteplase or urokinase within two days of initiating VA-ECMO were defined as the thrombolysis group and the remaining patients as the control group. The primary outcome was in-hospital mortality and secondary outcomes were favorable neurological outcomes, length of hospital stay, VA-ECMO duration, total hospitalization cost, major bleeding, and blood transfusion volume. Propensity-score inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) was performed to compare the outcomes between the groups.
Of 1220 eligible patients, 432 (35%) received systemic thrombolysis within two days of initiating VA-ECMO. Among the unweighted cohort, patients in the thrombolysis group were less likely to have poor consciousness at admission, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, and left heart catheterization. After IPTW, the patient characteristics were well-balanced between the two groups The crude in-hospital mortality was 52% in the thrombolysis group and 61% in the control group. After IPTW, in-hospital mortality did not differ significantly between the two groups (risk difference: – 3.0%, 95% confidence interval: – 9.6% to 3.5%). There were also no significant differences in the secondary outcomes. Sensitivity analyses showed a significant difference in major bleeding between the monteplase and control groups (risk difference: 6.9%, 95% confidence interval: 1.7% to 12.1%), excluding patients who received urokinase. There were no significant differences in the other sensitivity and subgroup analyses except for the total hospitalization cost.
Systemic thrombolysis was not associated with reduced in-hospital mortality or increased major bleeding in the high-risk PE patients receiving VA-ECMO. However, systemic thrombolysis with monteplase was associated with increased major bleeding.

© 2023. The Author(s).