Thrombolytic Therapy

Thrombolytic therapy for treatment of peripheral artery disease is the use of drugs to break up or dissolve blood clots. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when blood flow through the arteries is reduced by a buildup of cholesterol plaque, a blood clot, or a combination of both. This occurs most often in the legs and feet, but can happen in other parts of the body.

When a blood clot forms in a blood vessel, it may cut off or severely reduce blood flow to parts of the body that are served by that blood vessel. This can cause serious damage to those parts of the body.

Plaque buildup or a blood clot in the carotid artery (a larger artery in the neck) can be a major contributor to stroke. Most strokes are caused when blood clots travel to a blood vessel in the brain (through the carotid artery) blocking blood flow to that area. If you have a blood clot blocking an artery, your doctor may inject a clot-dissolving drug into your artery at the point of the clot to break it up. Giving thrombolytics within three hours of the first stroke symptoms can help limit stroke damage and disability.

Thrombolytic therapy is also used to manage symptoms caused by peripheral artery disease, such as leg pain.

Vascular specialists at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) are committed to providing comprehensive, compassionate, and innovative care to patients who require treatment for vascular disease. Our board certified surgeons' experience and collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of specialists enable them to handle the most complicated cases.

With 47,000 outpatient visits each year, the Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest in the United States, treating over 7,000 inpatients and performing more than 8,000 procedures annually at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Why Have Thrombolytic Therapy?

Thrombolytic therapy is used to dissolve blood clots that could cause serious disability and possibly limb-threatening or life-threatening damage if they are not removed. Research suggests that thrombolytic therapy can prevent or reverse the consequences of a blood clot.

What You Should Expect

The BWH Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro building, across the street from BWH's main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.

Multidisciplinary Care

In addition to our vascular surgeons, patients also benefit from the teamwork of medical cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular imaging experts and radiologists, and anesthesiologists, all experts in vascular disorders. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients.

Heart and Vascular Center Appointments and Locations


Learn more about peripheral artery disease in our online health library.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

Learn about the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Center for pre-operative information and tests.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH