Thrombolytic Therapy is a minimally invasive vascular procedure performed to break down blood clots to prevent complications such as heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. The procedure is often used as an emergency treatment that restores normal blood flow and prevents damage to tissue and organs.
Our team of specially trained interventional radiologists at Vascular and Interventional Partners in Phoenix, AZ, regularly performs thrombolytic therapy. As a non-surgical and minimally invasive treatment for acute blood clots, thrombolytic therapy can significantly improve patient outcomes while minimizing complications. The procedure involves delivering medication that dissolves blood clots with the help of interventional radiology techniques and instruments.
What Is Thrombolytic Therapy?
Thrombolytic therapy, also known as fibrinolytic therapy and thrombolysis, is an interventional radiology procedure used to treat thrombosis.
Thrombosis is the occurrence of a blood clot (thrombus) inside a blood vessel that prevents blood from flowing normally to and from tissue. The condition is a medical emergency and can lead to serious complications such as:
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary embolism
- Limb ischemia
People with thrombosis often have severe enough symptoms to seek emergency care. If their thrombosis is discovered on time, they may be a good candidate for thrombolytic therapy.
Thrombolytic therapy is a catheter-directed minimally invasive treatment that dissolves these dangerous blood clots to restore normal blood flow and prevent life-threatening complications. It can help dissolve blood clots in most arteries and veins. During this treatment, specially trained doctors use catheters and x-ray imaging to help deliver fibrinolytic drugs that dissolve blood clots.
What to Expect During Thrombolytic Therapy
Before your procedure, we will perform blood work to see if your kidneys and liver are healthy enough to undergo this procedure. We will also check how your blood is clotting and explain what you can expect during and after this procedure.
Once you are admitted to the clinic, one of our interventional radiologists will assess your condition before the procedure begins. The interventional radiologist will make a small cut in your skin and maneuver a thin catheter toward the treatment site during the procedure. They will use real-time x-ray imaging to get the catheter to the blood clot. They will then deliver medication directly to the blood clot or, in some cases, mechanically dissolve it.
You will be given IV fluids while you are being treated, and we will use monitors to keep an eye on your heartbeat and blood pressure. You will be awake during the procedure and receive a local anesthetic and a mild sedative.
The process takes a couple of hours for smaller clots but can take several days with severe blockage from clots.
Preparing for Thrombolytic Therapy
Thrombolysis is usually performed in the event of a medical emergency, so patients do not have time to prepare. We will likely have enough time to perform a CT angiogram to get a picture of your blood vessels, which will help us administer the correct type of treatment.
After your procedure, you will need to remain in the hospital so that our staff can closely monitor your recovery and look out for complications. You will need to receive IV fluids, antibiotics and pain relievers during this time. As soon as your vitals are normal, you should be able to go home.
Like most medical procedures, thrombolytic therapy has its benefits and risks.
- No need for large incisions, stitches and general anesthesia
- Quick and easy administration
- Thrombolysis has saved lives and improved outcomes in many cases
- Allergic reactions to the contrast dye used for x-ray imaging
- Serious internal bleeding
- Bruising or bleeding at the puncture site
- Damage to the blood vessel
- Kidney damage in people with kidney disease or diabetes
- The blood moving to a different part of the body
At Vascular and Interventional Partners, we understand the importance of getting urgent medical care during thrombosis. We also know that patients prefer the most effective and minimally invasive treatment options available, so we want to help our patients improve their outcomes using the latest equipment and tried-and-true techniques. To learn more about this procedure and find out why it may be right for you, contact or call us today at (480) 435-9100.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should get thrombolytic therapy?
Patients who seek help within around four hours from symptom onset and are relatively healthy should consider this procedure. Thrombolysis needs to be performed quickly, or it becomes less effective. Besides acute cases of blood clotting, thrombolysis can be performed in patients with deep vein thrombosis, bypass grafts and dialysis catheters.
Who cannot get thrombolytic therapy?
Thrombolytic therapy is not for everyone. In fact, it has a long list of contraindications: a recent stroke, possible aortic dissection, active bleeding, recent brain or spine surgery, severe hypertension, history of stroke, dementia, peptic ulcers and pregnancy, to name a few. Before considering this procedure for our patients, we make sure they do not have any major contraindication.
How successful is thrombolytic therapy?
Thrombolytic therapy is successful in most cases. However, in up to 25 percent of cases, the blood clots do not dissolve despite treatment. In a further 12 percent of patients, patients develop new clots in the same site. Thrombolysis can minimize tissue damage, but it cannot repair tissue that the blood clot has already damaged.
What are the major downsides of thrombolytic therapy?
Thrombolytic therapy comes with a greater risk of internal bleeding compared to similar therapies. However, serious complications are rare.