A pulmonary embolism is a fairly common condition that can be fatal. It is defined as an obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs, usually due to a blood clot, which blocks a coronary artery. While treatment is not always successful for a pulmonary embolism, a new study shows a new treatment is just as effective and easier to administer to patients than the current treatment.
According to the American Heart Association, about 600,000 Americans develop a pulmonary embolism annually; 60,000 die from one. The standard treatment for a pulmonary embolism is intravenous heparin requiring the patient to be monitored and hospitalized. Researchers conducted a study to see if a daily injection of the drug fondaparinux would be effective for patients with a pulmonary embolism.
The study included 2,213 patients who had a pulmonary embolism. The patients received either one of three doses of fondaparinux or a continuous intravenous infusion of heparin. Both of the drugs were given for five days. Researchers compared how the patients in each group did after three months and noted if they had a recurrent pulmonary embolism.
Researchers report only 42 of the 1,103 patients on fondaparinux had a recurrent problem compared to 56 of the 1,110 patients on the standard treatment. They also found major bleeding occurred in 1.3 percent of the patients on fondaparinux compared to 1.1 percent of the patients on heparin. The mortality rates after three months were similar in the two groups. About 15 percent of the patients on fondaparinux received the drug on an outpatient basis.
Study authors conclude treatment of pulmonary embolisms with fondaparinux is at least as effective and as safe as the standard treatment. They feel because of the simplicity in giving fondaparinux, it could become the first treatment of choice for many patients with a pulmonary embolism.