Watson L, Broderick C, Armon MP. Thrombolysis for acute deep vein thrombosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Nov 10;11(11):CD002783.
Main results: Seventeen RCTs with 1103 participants were included. These studies differed in the both thrombolytic agent used and in the technique used to deliver it. Systemic, loco-regional and catheter-directed thrombolysis (CDT) were all included. Fourteen studies were rated as low risk of bias and three studies were rated as high risk of bias. We combined the results as any (all) thrombolysis compared to standard anticoagulation. Complete clot lysis occurred significantly more often in the treatment group at early follow-up (RR 4.91; 95% CI 1.66 to 14.53, P = 0.004) and at intermediate follow-up (RR 2.44; 95% CI 1.40 to 4.27, P = 0.002; moderate quality evidence). A similar effect was seen for any degree of improvement in venous patency. Up to five years after treatment significantly less PTS occurred in those receiving thrombolysis (RR 0.66, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.81; P < 0.0001; moderate quality evidence). This reduction in PTS was still observed at late follow-up (beyond five years), in two studies (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.77; P < 0.0001; moderate quality evidence). Leg ulceration was reduced although the data were limited by small numbers (RR 0.87; 95% CI 0.16 to 4.73, P = 0.87). Those receiving thrombolysis had increased bleeding complications (RR 2.23; 95% CI 1.41 to 3.52, P = 0.0006; moderate quality evidence). Three strokes occurred in the treatment group, all in trials conducted pre-1990, and none in the control group. There was no significant effect on mortality detected at either early or intermediate follow-up. Data on the occurrence of pulmonary embolism (PE) and recurrent DVT were inconclusive. Systemic thrombolysis and CDT had similar levels of effectiveness. Studies of CDT included two trials in femoral and iliofemoral DVT, and results from these are consistent with those from trials of systemic thrombolysis in DVT at other levels of occlusion.