An embolectomy removes a blood clot that moved from where it started in a blood vessel to another part of your body. Your healthcare provider can do a minimally invasive procedure using a catheter or do a traditional surgery. You’ll need about a week to recover in the hospital after surgery. Like any surgery, it has a risk of complications.
The blood clot may have formed in one part of your body (like your legs) and moved somewhere else (to your lungs, for example). That type of clot is an embolus.
Or, the blood clot may have formed directly in the place where it’s causing problems. That type of clot is a thrombus.
A surgeon or a doctor trained in minimally invasive procedures can perform embolectomy/thrombectomy (clot removal).
Depending on the size and location of the clot, this can be an urgent procedure because the clot prevents blood from getting to an important part of your body.
On the one hand, your blood needs to be able to clot so you don’t bleed too much when you have a cut. But some people have blood that tries to clot too much in places it shouldn’t. In these cases, your healthcare provider may need to remove the clot.
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If you have deep vein thrombosis of the leg (blood clot in your leg), it can travel to your lungs and lead to a condition known as pulmonary embolism. If your healthcare provider can’t take care of it with medications, you may need an embolectomy/thrombectomy procedure.
You may be more likely to get a blood clot (whether you’re bleeding or not) if you have:
Your healthcare provider may do an embolectomy if you have pulmonary (lung) embolism or a blood clot in the right side of your heart and one of these is true:
Most people who have a blood clot that’s causing problems receive medicine for it instead of having surgery. However, surgery and other less invasive procedures are options depending on the situation. A team of healthcare providers typically decides on a person-by-person basis.
Your healthcare provider will set up a transesophageal echocardiogram (a type of imaging that uses ultrasound to show your heart in motion) to use during your surgical embolectomy.
For a catheter embolectomy, your healthcare team gets an ultrasound machine ready to help them find the clot and sets up an angiogram (X-rays of your blood vessels) to help them put the catheter in the right place.
For either type, you’ll receive some form of anesthesia so you don’t feel pain during the procedure.
Depending on the size of your blood clot, your healthcare provider may use one of two methods of removing your blood clot:
Your healthcare provider will:
Your healthcare provider will:
Some people may receive a vena cava filter to catch future blood clots. This keeps them from becoming another pulmonary (lung) embolus.
With either method, your healthcare provider will need to put a bandage and pressure on any external cuts they made. With surgical embolectomy, they’ll stitch your internal and external cuts and stop using cardiopulmonary bypass.
After surgery, you may also need:
After catheter embolectomy, you may also stay in an intensive care unit (ICU), where your medical team will monitor your recovery.
Not everyone is a candidate for an embolectomy. But embolectomy (through either surgery or a minimally invasive procedure) may be the better choice if:
Interventions (both surgical and minimally invasive) have risks.
Risks of (minimally invasive) catheter embolectomy include:
Risks of surgical embolectomy include:
With a pulmonary embolectomy, you’ll be in the hospital for at least a day or two until your breathing and heart function look good enough to go home. You may spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU). Healing after a surgical embolectomy is usually longer than from a catheter embolectomy.
In the past, a quarter to half of the people who had a pulmonary embolectomy didn’t survive. However, since the 2000s, death rates from this procedure have dropped to about 5% to 16%. A study that followed up on people who had this procedure found that 73% were alive five years after the surgery.
Both of these involve the removal of a blood clot, which is also called a thrombus. A thrombectomy is the removal of a blood clot sitting in your blood vessel, where it started. An embolectomy is the removal of a blood clot that went somewhere else after it started in your blood vessel.
An embolectomy removes a blood clot that went to another part of your body. An endarterectomy removes plaque, a kind of waxy fat that clogs blood vessels.
An embolectomy is a procedure (surgery or minimally invasive) to get a blood clot out of your body. Thrombolytic therapy uses clot-busting medicine given in your blood vessels to make blood clots dissolve in your body. Thrombolytic (clot-busting) therapy can cause bleeding in other parts of your body (including your brain).
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Healthcare providers have several options for treating embolism. Because your case is unique to your situation, your healthcare provider will go over the best options available. If you or your loved one is having an embolectomy, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the procedure and its risks. Having an embolus (or thrombus) in your body can lead to some serious problems (even death) if not treated. It’s important to know the risks and benefits of the treatments available.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/17/2022.
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