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What are minimally invasive vein treatment procedures?

Pharmacomechanical Thrombolysis

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Pharmacomechanical thrombolysis is a type of vein treatment that combines the use of medicated injections with a mechanical suctioning device to remove blood clots from blood vessels. Only anticoagulant medication is used during traditional thrombolysis.  However, in recent years pharmacomechanical thrombolysis has been increasingly preferred over purely medicinal therapy as a way to treat patients diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Blood clots increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The clot itself can prevent oxygen from being delivered to the heart tissue, which could cause a heart attack. If a blood clot dislodges and moves to vital blood vessels in the brain, it can severely damage brain tissue and may cause a stroke. In both cases, the patient’s life can be at stake.

Medical professionals at the American Heart Association have credited thrombolysis as a way to prevent fatality from heart attacks and strokes in patients. If the procedure is performed within hours of the heart attack or stroke, the patient’s chances of survival are much higher. Such preventative measures to prepare a patient as best as possible for a heart attack or stroke also include angioplasty, cardiac catheterization, and other types of vein treatment.

Intervention with pharmacomechanical thrombolysis is most often used for blood clots caused by deep vein thrombosis or blood clots that develop in the deep leg veins. These blood clots are very dangerous because they can relocate to the veins in the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. Patients usually cannot recognize that they have a blood clot in their deep veins.  Oftentimes patients learn that they have such blood clots when they visit a doctor for vein treatment of varicose veins or spider veins—which can be symptoms of deep vein thrombosis.

A typical pharmacomechanical thrombolysis procedure lasts approximately 30 minutes. During the procedure a sedated patient lies down on an exam table while a catheter is inserted and guided through the obstructed vein until the blood clot is within reach. The catheter has on it both medication designed to soften plasma in the blood clot as well as a small device that pierces the clotted mass.   When the clotted mass is pierced, balloons are inflated at either end of the blood clot so that coagulated blood will not dislodge during the mechanical thrombolysis. The entire catheter can then be withdrawn after the blood clot is secured by the suction device.

Pharmacomechanical thrombolysis is becoming more widely used in the medical community than traditional forms of thrombolytic therapy. A primary benefit to this trend is that patients are exposed to smaller doses of anticoagulant medication, which generally decreases the risk of hemorrhaging and other bleeding problems. Contact a vein doctor listed in our DoctorQA directory if you’d like to learn more about pharmacomechanical thrombolysis.

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