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If you’ve had an ischaemic stroke, you may be treated with a ‘clot-busting’ medicine (a thrombolytic) to try to dissolve the clot and open up the affected artery. This process is called thrombolysis.
To stand a good chance of working, thrombolysis must be given within 4.5 hours of the first symptoms of a stroke.
Thrombolysis is not suitable for everyone who has had a stroke:
Benefits of thrombolysis
Thrombolysis increases the chance of surviving a stroke and living independently by 10%.
Risks of thrombolysis
About 1 in 15 people who have thrombolysis develop bleeding in the brain. In some people this can be fatal.
Thrombectomy (or intra-arterial clot retrieval) is a procedure used to physically remove the clot that caused the stroke and open up the blocked artery.
During the procedure, a thin flexible tube (a catheter) is inserted into an artery in the top of your leg. The tube is carefully moved through the blood vessels in your body to the blocked artery in the brain. To guide the tube safely into place, a dye is injected into the tube and an x-ray used to track it.
When the tube is safely in place, a wire net (a stent retriever) is passed through the catheter to the site of the blockage. The wire net is used to remove the clot and re-establish blood flow through the artery to the affected part of your brain.
Thrombectomy is carried out in an operating theatre. Usually you will be awake during the procedure and have a local anaesthetic to numb your upper leg where the tube is inserted. Occasionally the procedure is done under a general anaesthetic.
Thrombectomy is not suitable for everyone who has had a stroke:
Benefits of thrombectomy
Removing the clot early increases your chance of a better recovery, including the recovery of your independence and mobility. About 8 out of every 20 people who have a thrombectomy will have less disability compared with those who don’t undergo the procedure.
Risks of thrombectomy
Thrombectomy is a relatively safe procedure when performed by an experienced, appropriately trained doctor.
Risks of thrombectomy include:
Severe complications are rare, occurring in less than 1 in every 20 people who have a thrombectomy. They include: