Medical Procedures to Remove Blood Clots

Medical procedures to remove blood clots become necessary when the clots threaten to travel from a vein to the heart, lungs or brain, leading to potentially fatal conditions. Deep venous thrombosis, also called deep vein thrombosis, forms bloods clots deep in the veins, usually in the lower leg and thigh. The condition causes swelling and pain because of blocked blood flow. People noticing these symptoms should seek medical attention to avoid serious damage.

Medication

Anticoagulants, also called blood thinners, prevent blood clots from enlarging so the clot can eventually dissolve by the body’s own processes. Heparin is the standard medication given intravenously. Some new forms of heparin are delivered through injections once or twice a day, according to MedlinePlus. Doctors often follow up the procedure by using warfarin, a medication that continues for several months to prevent the clots from enlarging in some patients. In cases of pulmonary embolism, in which a clot travels to the lung, doctors administer medication to dissolve the clot more quickly, usually during emergency treatment. A pulmonary embolism results when the clot reaches the lungs, causing shortness of breath, chest pains, a sudden drop in blood pressure and even death. Thrombolytics are medicines used in these cases. The medications pose risks of sudden bleeding and are only used in life-threatening situations.

Devices

For people who cannot take blood thinners, a filter can be inserted into the main vein in the abdomen, the Mayo Clinic explains. The filter catches the clot before it travels to other areas. This prevents clots from breaking loose in the leg vein and lodging in the lungs or heart, risking fatal consequences. The implanted filters usually remain in the patient permanently. A flexible tube called a catheter is sometimes inserted in the vein to reach a blood clot to either extract or dissolve the clot, according to National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The catheter may be inserted in the upper thigh or arm, depending on where the clot is, and threaded through the vein to reach the clot.

Surgery

Doctors may suggest varicose vein stripping for people with recurrent thrombophlebitis, which causes inflammation and can lead to deep vein thrombosis. Surgery removes varicose veins usually on an outpatient basis. Patients can resume normal activities shortly after the procedure. Other veins in the leg pick up the volume of blood circulating. Doctors can also perform surgery on veins with clots in the pelvis or abdomen. Bypass surgery to bypass the vein or angioplasty to open the vein are among the surgical methods.

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