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Thrombolysis Dissolves Blood Clots

Thrombolysis can increase blood flow and help prevent organ damage by dissolving dangerous clots in blood vessels.

Thrombolysis involves the administration of “clot-busting” drugs (lytics), which can dissolve clots that suddenly block a major artery or vein or otherwise increase the risk of a stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism. For maximum effectiveness, thrombolytic therapy must begin as soon as possible and before any permanent organ damage occurs.

When Is Thrombolysis Used?

Thrombolytic therapy can reverse or reduce the adverse effects of:

  • A blocked artery in the brain, which can lead to a stroke
  • A blocked artery in the heart, which can lead to a heart attack
  • A blocked artery in a lung, which can lead to pulmonary embolism
  • A blocked vein in a leg, which can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

How Is Thrombolysis Administered?

Systemic thrombolysis is performed in an intensive care unit (ICU) while the patient’s heart and lung functions are monitored. To help prevent a stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism, lytics can be delivered through a peripheral intravenous (IV) line, usually in a visible vein in an arm. After entering the bloodstream, the drugs circulate throughout the body to reach the clot.

Lytics can also be delivered through a thin tube (catheter) that is inserted through a puncture in the skin and navigated to the site of a clot. Performed in a catheterization lab or radiology suite, this treatment may be considered if blood thinners do not dissolve a DVT. If a narrowed area of the vein is detected, it may be treated with angioplasty or stenting during the same session.

What to Expect After Thrombolysis

After thrombolysis, a vascular surgeon will reassess the symptoms and determine whether the clot was fully dissolved; if not, additional medication may be administered. Depending on the underlying reason for the clot formation, further treatment may be considered, such as balloon angioplasty or stenting. Most patients are eventually placed on blood thinners (anticoagulants) to help prevent further clotting.

The experienced physicians at Tampa General Hospital have extensive experience in using innovative methods to diagnose and treat blood clots and other vascular conditions. We’re proud to utilize leading-edge technologies and surgical procedures, including thrombolysis, and we are committed to providing our patients with individualized treatment and comprehensive care.