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What is thrombolysis?

Thrombolysis treats blood clots and prevents serious and life-threatening complications. It involves using medication to break up or dissolve a blood clot that has formed inside a blood vessel. Blood clots can grow, break loose, and cut off blood supply to organs and tissues. This can cause a stroke, heart attack, and other serious problems. Your doctor may use thrombolysis as an emergency or scheduled treatment, depending on your condition. 

Thrombolysis is a minor procedure, but it still involves some risk. It is only one method used to treat blood clots. Discuss all of your options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you. 

Types of thrombolysis

The types of thrombolysis include:

  • Catheter-based thrombolysis involves an incision in your groin through which your doctor inserts a catheter. Your doctor guides the catheter to the clot site and injects medication or uses special instruments to break up the clot.
  • Intravenous (IV) thrombolysis involves injecting medication through an IV. The medication travels to the site of the clot to dissolve it or break it up.

Other procedures that may be performed 

Your doctor may also perform an angiography along with your thrombolysis. An angiography is an imaging procedure that allows your doctor to take a picture (an angiogram) of your blood vessels.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 5, 2013

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Medical References

Catheter-directed Thrombolysis. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=thrombo. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Thrombolytic Therapy. Society for Vascular Surgery. http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/thrombolytic-therapy.aspx. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Thrombolytic Therapy. The Ohio State University. http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/heart/conditions/Pages/Treatments/ThrombolyticTherapy.aspx. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Roberts JR, Hedges JR (eds.) Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine (5th Ed.) Philadelphia: Saunders, 2010.

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