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What You Need to Know about Thrombolysis


Also referred to as thrombolytic therapy, thrombolysis is a procedure used to dissolve blood clots in the blood vessels, in order to improve blood flow and prevent damage to the body’s tissues and organs. The treatment involves the injection of a clot-busting drug through a long catheter or an intravenous (IV) line, which delivers the drug directly to the area of blockage. In other cases, a mechanical device is attached to the tip of the catheter to physically break the clot or remove it. Thrombolysis is often employed as an emergency treatment, to clear the passage in the arteries feeding the heart, lungs, and brain. Blood clots in these arteries are the main cause of pulmonary embolism, ischemic strokes, and heart attacks. Thus, thrombolysis should, therefore, be performed by an accomplished vein specialist in Frisco, TX. The treatment is also used to treat blood clots in dialysis catheters, clots in the legs, pelvic area and upper extremities, and bypass grafts.

The Procedure

Some of the most commonly used classes of clot-busting drugs or thrombolytic agents include eminase, retavase, streptase, t-PA, and TNKase, among others. The device chosen by the doctor will depend on the circumstances of the procedure. However, the most common course of treatment involves using a catheter to deliver medications directly to the clot. The doctor uses radiological imaging to see if the treatment is working by observing if the clot is dissolving. The process may take several hours if the clot is small. Otherwise, a severe blockage may require several days of treatment or may use mechanical thrombectomy. This is where a long catheter attached to a suction cup at the tip is inserted into the blood vessel. The device is fitted with a rotating, high-speed fluid jet used to physically break the clot.

Risks of Thrombolysis

Thrombolysis is a safe and effective procedure to eliminate and relieve symptoms in many patients. However, it is not recommended for everyone. Patients who use blood-thinning medication, herbs, or dietary supplements, as well as people with an increased risk of bleeding, should not go through with the procedure. Other conditions include severe blood loss, hemorrhagic stroke due to bleeding in the brain, severe kidney disease, recent surgery or severe high blood pressure.

Thrombolysis is associated with an increased risk of complications in patients who are at an advanced age or are pregnant. There is also a small risk of infection and a slight risk of an allergic reaction due to the contrast dye used in imaging. Other possible risks include bruising at the access site, damage to blood vessels, migration of the blood clot to another part of the vascular system, and kidney damage to patients with pre-existing kidney diseases. The most serious potential complication is intracranial bleeding which is often fatal. It is a rare complication, occurring in less than 1% of the cases.

Prognosis after Thrombolysis

Thrombolysis is usually successful in most of the patients. However, in about a quarter of the patients, the treatment is not able to completely dissolve the blood clot. Others subsequently redevelop the blockage or clot. And even when the treatment is successful, it cannot treat or help regenerate tissue that has already been damaged or compromised by blood circulation. Further treatment will be required to repair the damaged organs and tissues, and treat the underlying causes of blood clots.