Theoretically, thrombolytic therapy would appear to offer benefits over standard heparin therapy in the treatment of venous thromboembolism based on the more rapid resolution of thrombus. In this paper, the results of clinical trials performed with thrombolytic agents in the initial treatment of both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) are reviewed. Although there have been positive findings with surrogate markers, studies to date have failed to demonstrate that thrombolytic therapy is associated with an improved long-term clinical outcome in patients with DVT or PE. Recent reports have suggested that thrombolytic agents could be clinically useful in a subgroup who have right ventricular dysfunction on echocardiography. Randomized clinical trials, with clinically relevant endpoints, are required to determine the efficacy and safety of thrombolytic therapy in these patients.

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