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Thrombolytic Therapy


Thrombolytic therapy is the use of drugs to break up dangerous blood clots. Thrombolytic therapy is used in the treatment of heart attacks and stroke in addition to other conditions.

What to Expect During Thrombolytic Therapy

Although you may be given some mild sedation, you will usually stay awake during thrombolytic therapy. During the procedure:

  • Initially, you will lie on an X-ray table, and machines will monitor your vital signs.
  • Your doctor will make a small puncture over an artery or vein in your groin, your wrist or your elbow.
  • Your doctor then will numb your skin with a local anesthetic and then make a small cut or puncture to reach the blood vessel below.
  • Contrast will be injected through the catheter to map your blood vessels with angiography and to locate the clot. As the contrast flows through the blood vessels, X-rays are taken.
  • Your doctor will deliver the thrombolytic drugs in one of two ways: through a short catheter inserted in a vein (an IV catheter) or through a long catheter guided to the clot through your arteries or veins.
  • Because you have no nerve endings in your blood vessels, you will not feel the catheters as they move through your body.
  • Your physician will periodically monitor the X-ray screen to see the clot breaking up. The process may take several hours or up to several days, depending on the severity of the blockage.
  • When the clot has been dissolved or if it cannot be dissolved further, your doctor will stop the medication.
  • When the tests used to monitor your blood's coagulation ability are satisfactory, the IV or catheter will be removed.
  • Pressure will be applied to the access site for 10 to 20 minutes to stop any bleeding

Recovering from Thrombolytic Therapy

You will usually stay in bed during your recovery. During this time, your doctor and the hospital staff closely watch you for any complications. Additionally:

  • You may receive fluids, antibiotics, or painkillers.
  • If the catheter was inserted through an artery in your arm or leg, you may have to hold the limb straight for several hours.
  • When bleeding from the access site stops and your vital signs are normal, you may be discharged. Before your discharge, your doctor will give you instructions to follow after you return home.
  • You should drink plenty of water for two days to help flush the contrast dye out of your body.
  • You can usually shower 24 hours after your procedure, but you should avoid baths for a few days.