When the circulation of the blood slows down due to illness, injury or inactivity, blood can accumulate or “pool,” which provides an ideal setting for clot formation in the deep leg vein. This is referred to as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
This can lead to a pulmonary embolism, meaning the blood clot has travelled to the lungs and blocked an artery, which is a potentially life-threatening complication.
A minimally invasive treatment called catheter-directed thrombolysis can be performed to instantly dissolve and break up the clots.
When Is This Procedure Conducted?
Thrombolysis is performed to remove the blood clot and to prevent the vein or artery from becoming permanently blocked and restricting blood flow to a limb or organ. Restricted blood flow leads to acute symptoms of pain, a lack of pulse, paleness, paraesthesia (when a limb ‘falls asleep’) and paralysis, as well as the possibility of permanent complications such as tissue necrosis (the death of tissue cells in your body).
How Does This Procedure Work?
Catheter-directed thrombolysis is performed under imaging guidance by interventional radiologists. This procedure, performed in a hospital’s interventional radiology suite, is designed to rapidly break up the clot, restore blood flow within the vein and potentially preserve valve function to minimize the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome.
The interventional radiologist inserts a catheter into the popliteal (located behind the knee) or other leg vein and threads it into the vein containing the clot using imaging guidance. The catheter tip is placed into the clot and a “clot-busting” drug is infused directly to the thrombus (clot). The fresher the clot, the faster it dissolves – one to two days. Any narrowing in the vein that might lead to future clot formation can be identified by venography, an imaging study of the veins, and treated by the interventional radiologist with a balloon angioplasty or stent placement.
In patients in whom this is not appropriate and blood thinners are not medically appropriate, an interventional radiologist can insert a vena cava filter, a small device that functions like a catcher’s mitt to capture blood clots but allow normal liquid blood to pass
How Will I Feel After The Procedure?
You may experience some side effects after the procedure. The most common side effect is pain, which can be controlled by pain medication.
How Successful Is DVT/Thrombo Treatment?
As Thrombolysis is performed under image guidance, the procedure is highly successful.
The interventional radiologist will be able to advise you of the success of the treatment once the procedure has been performed.
In some cases, the procedure is not technically possible due to the position of the clot. It is important to understand that the removal of the clot alone cannot repair tissue that has already been damaged by lack of circulation. Further treatment may be required, both for the underlying condition that caused the clot and for any damage to affected organs or other tissues.
Summary of Benefits of DVT/Thrombo Treatment
- Catheter-directed thrombolysis can greatly improve blood flow and reduce or eliminate the related symptoms and effects without the need for more invasive surgery
- Thrombolysis is a safe, highly effective way of re-establishing circulation blocked by a clot
- Thrombolysis is less invasive than conventional open surgery to remove clots. Blood loss is less than with traditional surgical treatment and there is no obvious surgical incision
- No surgical incision is needed – only a small nick in the skin – no stitches required
Learn more about the treatment at http://www.sirweb.org/patients/deep-vein-thrombosis/