Surgical removal of blood clot to treat stroke, pulmonary embolism
Thrombectomy or mechanical thrombectomy involves surgical removal of blood clots from veins or arteries. Untreated, a blood clot may “break off” and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or to the brain (stroke). Blood clots are often treated with medication, such as blood thinners, but in some cases may be too large or pose immediate risk and danger to the patient. A blood clot also decreases or blocks blood flow, which may cause damage to surrounding tissues or organs. Symptoms of a blood clot may include pain, swelling, tingling, numbness or a cold feeling in the area, often in an arm or leg.
Thrombectomy is an advanced procedure offered at Bryn Mawr Hospital in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. As part of Main Line Health, which is a member of the Jefferson Neuroscience Network, Bryn Mawr Hospital is staffed 24/7 by Jefferson Hospital neurosurgeons / neurointerventionalists who perform complex and minimally invasive neurovascular procedures and life-saving stroke services.
Thrombectomy for stroke and new stroke guidelines for treatment
A thrombectomy can potentially reverse stroke and prevent brain damage in acute ischemic stroke patients. In the past, a thrombectomy had to be performed within the first six hours after the first signs of stroke. Under the new guidelines for stroke from the American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association (ASA), the time window for surgical thrombectomy may—in certain patients—be extended to 24 hours after the first symptoms of stroke. The new guidelines are particularly applicable to patients who’ve had a stroke while sleeping and have woken up with symptoms of stroke (a phenomenon known as a “wake-up stroke”). Without knowing exactly when the stroke happened, the new stroke treatment window gives Jefferson neurosurgeons at Bryn Mawr Hospital more time to perform thrombectomy.
Call 911 if you believe you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency.
How to prepare for surgical thrombectomy
Thrombectomy is done as an emergency procedure. The procedure itself is minimally invasive and involves threading a catheter (thin plastic tube) through a blood vessel, usually in the groin, and up to the blood clot to clear it out and allow blood to flow freely again. A balloon may be used to hold the vessel walls open and a stent may be placed to keep the walls from closing or collapsing. After the procedure is done, you’ll need to stay in the hospital for a day or two, depending on your condition and rate of recovery.
You will continue to see your doctor for follow-up visits and any additional treatment or medication recommendations.