A thrombectomy is a surgery to remove a blood clot from an artery or vein. The procedure can restore blood flow to vital organs, like your legs, arms, intestines, kidneys, brain or other vital organs. A thrombectomy can greatly reduce the risk of death or permanent disability if performed promptly.
A thrombectomy is a surgery to remove a blood clot from a blood vessel (artery or vein). A blood clot, also known as a thrombus, can interrupt the blood flow to your extremities and/or organs that can be limb or life-threatening. Some of the most common places for blood clots to occur are your legs, arms, intestines, brain, lungs and heart.
A thrombectomy is a surgical or interventional treatment to remove blood clots in an artery or vein to help restore blood flow through your blood vessel. Sometimes a thrombectomy must be performed within a matter of hours to prevent life or limb-threatening complications from occurring.
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You might need a thrombectomy if you have a blood clot that healthcare providers can’t treat with medications like anticoagulants (blood thinners) or thrombolytics (clot-busting drugs). The procedure may help you if the clot blocks blood flow to a part of your body, putting you at risk for:
You might not be a candidate for a thrombectomy if you have:
Not all blood clots require intervention. Some blood clots only require treatment with medicine like anticoagulants or thrombolytics. Anticoagulants are drugs that thin your blood to prevent more blood clots from forming and allow your body time to try to dissolve non-emergency clots over time. Thrombolytics, or thrombolytic therapy, are drugs that dissolve acute (sudden) clots. The decision on whether you need an anticoagulant, a thrombolytic or a thrombectomy is based on multiple factors and will ultimately be decided on by your healthcare provider.
Thrombectomy is a common or procedure. However, the frequency of thrombectomy is highly variable and ultimately depends on the location and extent of the blood clot.
A thrombectomy may treat:
There are two large categories of thrombectomies:
During a surgical thrombectomy, your surgeon makes an incision to get to your blocked blood vessel, cuts open your blood vessel, removes the blood clot using a balloon, and then repairs the blood vessel.
During a mechanical thrombectomy, your surgeon introduces special devices through catheters that can either macerate or suction out clots from within your blood vessel. When there’s a residual clot left, your surgeon will infuse the area with local clot-dissolving medicines. Some of these techniques are known as:
Sometimes there’s no way to prepare for a thrombectomy if it’s performed in an emergency. But if your thrombectomy is planned, your healthcare provider may ask you to:
Your procedure will vary depending on the type of thrombectomy you have. The surgery may last an hour or multiple hours depending on the location and extent of the blood clot.
In general, here’s what you can expect:
After a thrombectomy, a surgical team monitors your vital signs as you come out of anesthesia or sedation. Some people go home the same day as their procedure. Others stay in the hospital overnight or for several days depending on the location of the clot and the surgery or procedure that was performed and the need for ongoing blood thinners.
Your healthcare provider will give you detailed instructions about:
A thrombectomy can reduce the risk of severe disability, limb loss or death. The procedure can limit damage and loss of bodily functions by restoring blood flow as quickly as possible.
A thrombectomy does carry some risks, including:
Your recovery after a thrombectomy will depend on the type of procedure you have and a variety of other factors. Most people take blood-thinning medication to prevent another clot from forming. Your healthcare provider may ask you to wear compression stockings to prevent clots in your legs. Talk to your provider about other ways to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Survival rates after a thrombectomy depend on many factors, including your overall health and the location of the blood clot.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience the following after your procedure:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A thrombectomy is a surgery to remove a blood clot from an artery or vein. You may need a thrombectomy soon after the onset of symptoms. The procedure can restore blood flow to vital organs, such as your legs, arms, intestines, kidneys or brain, and reduce the risk of death or permanent tissue damage.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/02/2022.
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