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Thrombolytic Medicines for Pulmonary Embolism

Topic Overview

Thrombolytic medicines, such as streptokinase or tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA), interfere with the action of thrombin, which is needed to form blood clots. These medicines help to dissolve blood clots and may be used to treat pulmonary embolism in life-threatening situations.

All thrombolytics can cause serious bleeding. Bleeding inside the brain is a particular danger that can cause a stroke or death. In general, thrombolytics are used only where the risk of bleeding can be balanced against the risks of not dissolving the blood clot rapidly. Thrombolytics might be used when you have a large blood clot that is:

  • Severely blocking blood flow.
  • Decreasing the heart's ability to pump blood.
  • Causing very low blood pressure and shock.

These medicines are given through a vein in the hand or arm. Sometimes it is necessary to insert a catheter and give the medicine directly into the pulmonary artery. You must be hospitalized to receive thrombolytic medicines.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Guyatt GH, et al. (2012). Executive summary: Antithrombotic therapy and prevention of thrombosis, 9th ed.—American College of Chest Physicians evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest, 141(2, Suppl): 7S–47S.
  • Weitz JI (2012). Pulmonary embolism. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 596–603. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD - Hematology
Last Revised January 10, 2013

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