Fibrinolytic (Thrombolytic) Therapy


Fibrinolytic therapy, also known as thrombolytic therapy, involves the administration of medications to rapidly dissolve blood clots that have acutely obstructed arteries or veins. This emergency treatment is essential for improving blood flow, preventing tissue and organ damage, and mitigating the risk of life-threatening conditions like heart attacks or strokes. Timely administration following a stroke or heart attack is crucial for optimal results.

Reasons for undergoing the procedure

Fibrinolytic therapy is primarily utilized for the treatment of heart attacks (blockages in the arteries of the heart) and strokes (blockages in the arteries of the brain). However, it can also be employed to address the following conditions:

  • Pulmonary embolism (blockages in the arteries of the lung).
  • Acute deep vein thrombosis (blockages in the veins of the leg).
  • Acute arterial thrombosis (blockages in the arteries of the leg).
  • Blockages in catheters, dialysis fistulas, or surgical bypasses.

It’s crucial to exercise caution and consider certain precautions when contemplating thrombolytic therapy. There are various situations in which this treatment may not be suitable. You are likely not a candidate for thrombolytic therapy if you:

  • Are aged 75 or older.
  • Have a known brain tumor.
  • Are currently taking blood-thinning medications.
  • Have a history of bleeding into your brain.
  • Have experienced a stroke in the past three months.
  • Are dealing with active bleeding, recent trauma, or have undergone surgery recently.
  • Have eye conditions related to diabetes.
  • Are currently pregnant.
  • Suffer from uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • 10. Have a significantly low platelet count.


Thrombolytic therapy, while effective, does come with potential side effects. Two of the most prevalent are bleeding and the risk of parts of the clot dislodging and migrating deeper into the involved tissue or organ.

Bleeding might manifest at sites where IVs were inserted or from recent wounds. It can also unexpectedly arise in several ways:

  • Hemorrhage within the brain, though this is uncommon.
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Hematochezia or melena (blood in feces).
  • Hematuria (presence of blood in urine).

For many individuals, the advantages of undergoing thrombolytic therapy significantly eclipse these risks. Consultation with a medical professional is crucial to determine suitability for the treatment.

Before the procedure

Thrombolytic therapy is predominantly reserved for emergent clinical scenarios. Should your physician prescribe this modality, you will be relocated to an intensive care unit (ICU). Within this specialized environment, a team of medical professionals will meticulously monitor your hemodynamic parameters while administering the thrombolytic agents.

During the procedure

Thrombolytic agents are administered directly to the blood clot via an intravenous (IV) line or a catheter inserted into a vein. Throughout the therapeutic process, medical practitioners employ diagnostic imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to assess the efficacy of clot dissolution. In certain cases, a procedure known as mechanical thrombectomy may be utilized, wherein a lengthy catheter equipped with a minuscule rotational instrument and suction mechanism is used to manually fragment and remove the clot.

After the procedure

After undergoing thrombolytic therapy, medical professionals will evaluate your recovery and check for any lingering clot fragments. Additional interventions, including stenting, balloon angioplasty, or surgical procedures, might be required. It’s common for practitioners to prescribe anticoagulants, like warfarin or heparin, to mitigate the chances of subsequent clot formation.


Recovery durations post-thrombolytic therapy differ based on individual circumstances. Typically, a hospital stay of at least a day is anticipated, but a more serious medical condition could extend this duration. While thrombolytic therapy often proves effective, it fails to dissolve the clot in about 25% of cases, necessitating alternative interventions. Notably, even when the treatment works, the prior restricted blood flow from the clot might result in lasting tissue or organ damage, which could demand subsequent treatments.