Skip to Main Content

Peripheral Arterial Thrombolysis

Peripheral arterial thrombolysis is an interventional, or non-surgical, cardiology procedure in which medication is delivered to an artery in your leg or arm to dissolve a blood clot and restore blood flow. If a blood clot forms in an artery in the leg or arm, blood flow to the limb can be blocked, resulting in severe pain and death of tissue in the limb.

Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute of Greater Sacramento is a leader in interventional cardiology care. Our cardiologists use the latest digital technology and minimally invasive cardiology tools.

What to Expect During Peripheral Arterial Thrombolysis

A specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist performs peripheral arterial thrombolysis. During the procedure:

  • Your doctor inserts an IV (intravenous) line into a vein to give you fluid and medications. You may be given medication through the IV to help you relax. A local anesthetic is given to keep you from feeling pain where the catheter (thin, flexible tube) will be inserted.
  • Your doctor then makes a very small incision over the insertion site and inserts the catheter through the incision into the artery. The movement of the catheter is watched on a video monitor.
  • To help the artery show clearly on X-ray images, your doctor will inject contrast medium through the catheter into the artery. Using these images as a guide, the radiologist moves the catheter to the clot.
  • When the catheter reaches the clot, your doctor injects medication to dissolve the clot. This is done slowly, over a period of a few hours. The catheter is left in place until the clot has dissolved. This can take up to 72 hours.
  • Once the clot has dissolved, your doctor may treat any narrowing of the artery using peripheral angioplasty or a stent. Your heart doctor can tell you more about these treatments.
  • When the procedure is finished, your doctor removes the catheter and puts pressure on the insertion site for 15 minutes to stop bleeding.

After the procedure:

  • You will be told to lie flat and keep the insertion site still for six hours to prevent bleeding
  • You may stay in the hospital overnight
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast medium from your system
  • After you go home, care for the insertion site as directed

Preparing for Peripheral Arterial Thrombolysis

Follow any instructions you are given on how to prepare, including:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for six hours before the procedure.
  • Tell the technologist what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are, or may be, pregnant; or if you are allergic to contrast medium (X-ray dye) or other medications.