A thrombolytic is a medication injected through your veins that dissolves blood clots. Often it is referred to as “clot-busting” medication. The delivery of a thrombolytic is often an emergency procedure and the best result is when there is a short time between the diagnosis of DVT/PE and the start of thrombolytic therapy. It is mostly used in cases of life or limb-threatening blood clots. In almost all cases, close monitoring, possibly in an intensive care unit (ICU), is required after administration of thrombolytic therapy.
Thrombolysis (the procedure used to inject thrombolytics) can improve blood flow and help with symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE). It is not without risks and therefore recommended only when absolutely necessary.
Here are some examples of conditions where thrombolytics should be avoided:
- Severe high blood pressure
- Active bleeding
- Recent bleeding in the brain
- Recent major stroke
- Severe kidney disease
- Recent surgery or trauma
Potential Risks of Thrombolysis:
The most significant risk of this therapy is bleeding. Bleeding can occur anywhere in the body and can range from minor to severe and life-threatening.
Some examples of bleeding complications can include:
- Blood from catheter sites and IV sites
- Blood in the urine
- Bloody in the stool
- Vomiting or spitting blood
- Bleeding in joints (knees, elbows)
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding in the brain
How is Thrombolysis performed?
If you need to have thrombolysis and are eligible, your doctor will decide to use one of two techniques to administer the medication:
- It can be injected through an IV catheter and allowed to circulate in your whole body or
- It can be injected directly into the clot (most often in the case of DVT) using a long catheter inserted by a specialized radiologist.
The first method is the most rapid method of administration and is used in emergency situations where time is of the essence.