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Overview

Normally, blood flows freely through blood vessels, arteries and veins. Arteries carry blood with oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and veins carry waste products back to the heart. In some cases, the blood thickens and clumps to form a blood clot in one of these vessels, blocking blood flow. When blood flow is blocked, nearby tissues can be damaged.

During a surgical thrombectomy, a surgeon makes an incision into a blood vessel. The clot is removed, and the blood vessel is repaired, restoring blood flow. In some cases, a balloon or other device may be put in the blood vessel to help keep it open.

Who is a candidate?

Patients suffering from a blood clot in an artery or vein may be good candidates for a surgical thrombectomy. While this surgery is often needed for a clot in the arms or legs, it may also be needed for blood clots in an organ or other part of the body.

What to expect

During a typical thrombectomy, a vascular surgeon will make a cut in the area above the blood clot before opening the blood vessel and taking the clot out. In some cases, a balloon attached to a catheter will be used in the blood vessel to remove any part of the clot that remains, and a stent may be put in the blood vessel to help keep it open. The surgeon will then close and repair the blood vessel, restoring blood flow, and the incision will be closed and bandaged.

For an endovascular thrombectomy, a sheath is inserted into the groin, which will be guided to the blood clot. There are a number of different techniques for this procedure. For instance, the blood clot can be removed using a vacuum to suck the thrombus out or mechanical equipment to break up the clot. The devices for these techniques are inserted over the sheath into the affected artery.

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