A sedative is injected through an intravenous (IV) line to relax you, though at times a general anesthetic is given instead. The interventional radiologist will then find an appropriate blood vessel, usually in the groin, arm or neck, and numb the area with a local anesthetic. A thin catheter is passed through a very small incision into a blood vessel and, guided by x-rays, the catheter is maneuvered to the area of poor circulation. Contrast material then is injected and a series of x-rays are taken to pinpoint the location of the clot. The radiologist will review the images to determine whether the clot would be best treated by a clot-dissolving medication, by breaking it up with a mechanical device, or both.
The catheter is advanced through the blood vessels of the body to the vessel that has the clot. If the clot will be treated with medication, the catheter is left in place, connected to a special pump that delivers the medication at a precise rate. The clot-dissolving medications are delivered through the catheter over several hours to several days. You will stay in the hospital for the duration of the medication treatment. It usually takes 24 - 48 hours for the clot to dissolve. During that time, the interventional radiologist monitors the progress of the treatment using additional imaging scans.