Embolectomy, Catheter

What is catheter embolectomy?

An embolus is a blood clot, fat, air, or other material that is carried through the blood stream. If the embolus is stuck in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow, it can be a life threatening emergency.

A venous embolus can come from any vein in the body, but often starts as a blood clot (thrombus) in a blood vessel in the legs, called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. An embolus that starts in a vein of the legs or arms is more likely to get stuck in the pulmonary artery (the blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen). This is called a pulmonary embolus.

An arterial embolus usually starts in the heart or large arteries, such as the carotid artery in the neck. An arterial embolus is more likely to travel to the brain and cause a stroke. An arterial embolus may also travel to the arms or legs and get stuck in smaller blood vessels, causing tissue to die from a lack of blood supply.

An embolus is usually treated with medicine to dissolve it. If medicine doesn’t work, you may need surgery to remove the embolus, called a catheter embolectomy.

How is catheter embolectomy done?

Before the procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for catheter embolectomy. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).
  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.

During the procedure:

  • You may be given a sedative through your IV to help you to relax.
  • You will be given medicines to prevent pain during your surgery. Local anesthesia numbs the area where the catheter will be inserted.
  • You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder through the urethra (the opening from the bladder to the outside of the body) to drain and measure urine from the bladder.
  • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • A cardiac (heart) monitor will be used to keep track of your heart rate and rhythm.
  • The surgeon will insert the catheter into a large vein in your groin or your neck and move the end of it through your blood vessels until it reaches the clot.
    • If the catheter has a balloon at the end of it, the balloon will be inflated and the clot will be pulled out with the catheter and removed. This procedure may be repeated one or more times to be sure the entire clot is removed.
    • If the catheter has a suction device, the surgeon will use the device to break up and remove the pieces of the clot.
    • The provider may inject medicine through the catheter to the site of the clot to dissolve the clot.
  • In some cases the surgeon may place a small filter in a blood vessel to prevent blood clots from getting into the heart and lungs.

After the procedure:

  • You will be checked often by nursing staff.
  • There will be a dressing on the site where the catheter was inserted. The dressing will be checked and changed by your provider or the nursing staff as needed.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Relax and widen blood vessels and allow blood to flow through them easier
    • Help prevent blood clots
    • Control cholesterol levels
  • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • A cardiac (heart) monitor will be used to keep track of your heartbeat.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
    • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
    • Trouble breathing
    • Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
    • Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach
    • Unusual or unexpected bleeding or bruising or bleeding that does not stop
    • Bluish color of the skin below the surgery site
    • Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Pain at the site of surgery
    • Warmth, redness, or pain in your leg
    • Weakness, numbness, tingling or pain in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with after catheter embolectomy is 4 to 6 days.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-30
Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X