Study: Clot-busting drug safe for pulmonary embolism
August 4, 1997
Web posted at: 7:35 p.m. EDT (2335 GMT)
DALLAS (CNN) -- The same "clot-busting" drugs widely used to stop heart attacks and strokes can also help treat many patients with blood clots in their lungs, according to German researchers writing in the American Heart Association journal "Circulation."
Use of the clot busters to treat pulmonary embolism has been controversial, because the drugs can cause severe bleeding problems.
However, in one of the largest studies yet, the German researchers found thrombolytic treatment -- that is use of the clot busters -- helped save lives in patients without severe symptoms, the group which has most divided doctors over use of the drugs.
In fact, doctors helped reduce the risk of severe bleeding by using
blood-thinning drug currently the primary alternative to clot busters for pulmonary emboli.
Clots often form in the lungs in patients bedridden after surgery, or for other medical reasons.
The clot-buster drugs dissolve the clots and help restore full blood flow.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot gets caught in the lungs. It can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or if the clot's large enough, death.
More than 300,000 patients are treated for pulmonary emboli each year in the United States.
In an accompanying editorial, Harvard Medical School's Dr. Samuel Goldhaber calls the German study a "landmark," saying "it shows that clot-busting therapy can be extended to a much wider group of patients."
However, Goldhaber concedes the debate over use of clot busters for pulmonary embolism is far from over.
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