Thrombolytic Therapy: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Blood clot forming

Thrombolytic therapy breaks up blood clots. It is done to dissolve a clot that is blocking blood flow to the heart. The medicine is given through your vein or through a tube called a catheter. The medicine goes right to the clot.

The therapy can cause bleeding, so it is usually not used for people with bleeding problems or stomach ulcers.

After treatment, you may need to take low-dose aspirin or other medicine to prevent future clots.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take steps to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke:
    • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk of a heart attack or a stroke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
    • Lower your cholesterol level and control your blood pressure. You can do this by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. You also may have to take medicine.
    • Reduce stress. Do something you enjoy every day. Try deep breathing or yoga. Talk about your problems and feelings. If you need help, see a counsellor.
    • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities.
    • Take a low-dose aspirin every day if your doctor recommends it. This can help prevent blood clots.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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