What Are MIIPs? / Blood Clots

What is a blood clot?

Blood usually flows through your vessels like water in a pipe. When you get hurt and bleed, blood can form a blob of thick jelly called a clot. Blood clots help your body to stop bleeding and start healing itself.

What is an abnormal blood clot?

When a blood clot forms in an open blood vessel, it can block blood flow. This can happen when the blood vessel is narrowed, damaged, or scarred. Abnormal blood clots can form when a person does not move for long periods of time. Abnormal blood clots can also form in people who have diseases that cause them to make clots too easily.

A vein is a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back to the heart. Sometimes a blood clot can form in the big veins deep in the pelvis or legs. This can cause swelling and pain as the blood backs up in the legs, unable to get back to the heart.

Are abnormal blood clots dangerous?

If a clot in a deep vein breaks off and travels to the lungs, it can block the lung vessels and cause life- threatening shortness of breath. This is an emergency.

If the deep vein clot does not clear up naturally or with medication, it can damage the vein. Damaged veins cannot carry blood back to the heart normally, so patients can experience long-term swelling, pain, and skin sores. This condition can reduce a patient’s quality of life.

It is rare but sometimes the blood clot in the deep veins of the pelvis and legs is so big that blood cannot flow out of or into the leg. If doctors cannot open the vein, the patient could lose their leg. This is an emergency.

What are the treatments for abnormal blood clots?

Most blood clots can be treated with medicines given through an IV. These medications, called blood thinners, keep new clots from forming.

Patients with severe symptoms from a blood clot in the lungs or deep veins need treatments to remove the clot. Doctors can give clot-busting medicines to the entire body through an IV.

Specialized doctors can perform a minimally invasive, image-guided procedure (MIIP) to dissolve the clot faster and with smaller amounts of clot-busting medicines by giving them directly into the clot through a tiny tube. This targeted approach carries a lower risk of bleeding than when the medicine is given to the entire body.

How can a MIIP treat abnormal blood clots?

A specialized doctor numbs the skin then inserts a tiny tube into a large vein in the neck, groin or leg. Using moving x-rays to see inside the body, the specialized doctor then guides the tube over a soft wire through the veins and to the blood clot. The doctor sprays clot-busting medicines into the clot through many tiny holes in the tube. Sometimes the clot dissolves immediately but other times the clot needs treatment with the clot-busting medicine for several hours or overnight. The clot dissolves and symptoms improve. The doctor removes the tiny tube and covers the pinhole with a Band-aid. This treatment can save lives.

Right:  Clot-busting medicine delivered through a catheter in the blood vessel. 

Animation is on loan from Merit Medical (www.meritmedical.com)

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