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Peripheral Arterial Thrombolysis

Peripheral arterial thrombolysis is a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in a leg or arm artery. It brings blood flow back to your leg or arm. If a blood clot forms in an artery in your leg or arm, blood flow to that limb can be blocked. This can cause severe pain and tissue death in your limb. Peripheral arterial thrombolysis is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Blood vessel with plaque in walls and blood clot blocking channel. Thrombolysis can dissolve a clot that is blocking blood flow.

Getting ready for your procedure

Tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium) or other medicines

Tell your provider about any medicines you are taking. You may need to stop taking all or some of these before the test. This includes:

  • All prescription medicines

  • Over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Street drugs

  • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure. Follow any other instructions from your provider.

During your procedure

In general, you can expect the following:

  • An IV (intravenous) line is put into a vein. This is to give you fluid and medicines. You may be given medicine through the IV to help you relax (sedation). Medicine will be put on your skin where the procedure will be done. This will keep you from feeling pain at the insertion site.

  • A very small cut (incision) is made at the insertion site. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is put through the incision into your artery. The provider watches the catheter's movement on a screen.

  • X-ray dye is injected through the catheter into your artery. This helps the artery be seen clearly on X-ray images. The provider uses these images as a guide. He or she moves the catheter to the clot.

  • When the catheter reaches the clot, the technologist injects medicine into the catheter. The medicine will dissolve the clot. This is done slowly, over a few hours. The catheter is left in place until the clot has dissolved. This can take up to 72 hours.

  • Once the clot has dissolved, you may need to have your artery widened. This will be done using a medical balloon (peripheral angioplasty). A mesh tube (stent) may also be used to keep the artery from narrowing.

  • When the procedure is finished, the catheter is taken out. Pressure is put on the insertion site for 15 minutes to stop bleeding.

After your procedure

  • Your provider will tell you how long you must lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • You may stay in the hospital overnight.

  • You may have some pain. This can be controlled with medicine.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the X-ray dye out of your body.

  • After you go home, care for the insertion site as directed.

Possible risks and complications

All procedures have some risk. Possible risks of peripheral arterial thrombolysis include:

  • Bleeding at the insertion site or inside your body

  • Bruising at the insertion site

  • Damage to your artery

  • Problems because of X-ray dye, including allergic reaction or kidney damage



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