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Understanding Surgical Thrombectomy

Surgical thrombectomy is surgery to remove a blood clot from one of your blood vessels. The blood clot may be in an artery or vein in your arm, leg, or another part of your body. It may block the flow of blood to your tissues or organs.

Why surgical thrombectomy is done

A blood clot can cause swelling, pain, numbness, or tingling. It may lead to serious problems such as tissue or organ damage. It can also cause long-term problems with your veins. If the clot is in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT), a piece may break off and travel to your lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism. It’s a serious condition and can cause death.

A surgical thrombectomy is done to remove the blood clot and prevent problems. Your surgeon will make a cut (incision) into one of your blood vessels. The clot will be removed and the blood vessel will be repaired. This helps the blood flow normally again.

Blood clots can be treated in many ways. They can be treated with blood-thinning medicines. They can also be treated with a procedure done with a thin, flexible tube (catheter). Surgery may be needed if another treatment is not right for you, or has not worked.

How surgical thrombectomy is done

Your surgery will be done by a healthcare provider who is a blood vessel (vascular) specialist. It can be done in several ways. The surgeon will make an incision through your skin and into the blood vessel with the clot. Continuous X-ray imaging may be used to help the surgeon see the blood vessel and clot. He or she will remove the clot and fix the blood vessel.  A thin tube (catheter) may be used to remove any part of the clot that remains. The surgeon may put a small mesh tube (stent) in the blood vessel to help keep it open.

Risks of surgical thrombectomy

All surgeries have risks. The risks of this surgery include:

  • Too much bleeding

  • Infection

  • Damage to the blood vessel

  • Inability to remove the clot and more extensive surgery may be needed 

  • Reaction to anesthesia

  • Long-term vein problems

  • Pulmonary embolism

  • Another blood clot forming

Your risks vary depending on your overall health, how long you’ve had the clot, and where it is in your body. Ask your healthcare provider which risks apply most to you.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.