Thrombolytic therapy might reduce venous thromboembolism-related mortality and morbidity, but it could also increase the risk of major bleeding. We systematically reviewed the literature to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of thrombolytics in patients with pulmonary embolism (PE) and/or deep venous thrombosis (DVT). We searched Medline, Embase, and Cochrane databases for relevant randomized controlled trials up to February 2019. Multiple investigators independently screened and collected data. We included 45 studies (4740 participants). Pooled estimates of PE studies indicate probable reduction in mortality with thrombolysis (risk ratio [RR], 0.61; 95% conﬁdence interval [CI], 0.40-0.94) (moderate certainty) and possible reduction in nonfatal PE recurrence (RR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.35-0.89) (low certainty). Pooled estimates of DVT studies indicate the possible absence of effects on mortality (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.26-2.28) (low certainty) and recurrent DVT (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.56-1.76) (low certainty), but possible reduction in postthrombotic syndrome (PTS) with thrombolytics (RR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.59-0.83) (low certainty). Pooled estimates of the complete body of evidence indicate increases in major bleeding (RR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.46-2.46) (high certainty) and a probable increase in intracranial bleeding (RR, 3.17; 95% CI 1.19-8.41) (moderate certainty) with thrombolytics. Our ﬁndings indicate that thrombolytics probably reduce mortality in patients with submassive- or intermediate-risk PE and may reduce PTS in patients with proximal DVT at the expense of a signiﬁcant increase in major bleeding. Because the balance between beneﬁts and harms is profoundly inﬂuenced by the baseline risks of critical outcomes, stakeholders involved in decision making would need to weigh these effects to deﬁne which clinical scenarios merit the use of thrombolytics.
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