The main complication is bleeding (which can be dangerous), and in some situations thrombolysis may therefore be unsuitable. Thrombolysis can also play an important part in reperfusion therapy that deals specifically with blocked arteries.
Stroke: Thrombolysis reduces major disability or death when given within 3 hours (or perhaps even 6 hours) of ischaemic stroke onset when there are no contraindications to treatment.
Massive pulmonary embolism. For the treatment of a massive pulmonary embolism, catheter-directed therapy is a safer and more effective alternative to systemic thrombolysis. This involves the injecting of drugs directly into the clot.
Thrombolysis is usually intravenous. It may also be used directly into the affected blood vessel during an angiogram (intra-arterial thrombolysis), e.g. when patients present with stroke beyond three hours or in severe deep vein thrombosis (catheter-directed thrombolysis).
Thrombolysis is not without risks. Therefore, clinicians must select patients who are to be best suited for the procedure, and those who have the least risk of having a fatal complication. An absolute contraindication is in itself enough to avoid thrombolysis, while a relative contraindication needs to be considered in relation to the overall clinical situation.
Recent (within 30 days) biopsy of a parenchymal organ or surgery that, in the opinion of the responsible clinician, would increase the risk of unmanageable (e.g. uncontrolled by local pressure) bleeding.
Recent (within 30 days) trauma with internal injuries or ulcerative wounds.
Gastrointestinal or urinary tract haemorrhage within the last 30 days or any active or recent haemorrhage that, in the opinion of the responsible clinician, would increase the risk of unmanageable (e.g. by local pressure) bleeding.
Arterial puncture at non-compressible site within the last 7 days.
Concomitant serious, advanced or terminal illness or any other condition that, in the opinion of the responsible clinician would pose an unacceptable risk.
Minor or Rapidly improving deficit.
Seizure: If the presenting neurological deficit is deemed due to a seizure.
Pregnancy is not an absolute contraindication. Consider intra-arterial thrombolysis.
Hemorrhagic stroke is a rare but serious complication of thrombolytic therapy. If a patient has had thrombolysis before, an allergy against the thrombolytic drug may have developed (especially after streptokinase). If the symptoms are mild, the infusion is stopped and the patient is commenced on an antihistamine before infusion is recommenced. Anaphylaxis generally requires immediate cessation of thrombolysis.
Thrombolysis therapy uses thrombolytic drugs that dissolve blood clots. Most of these drugs target fibrin (one of the main constituent of blood clots) and are therefore called fibrinolytics. All currently approved thrombolytic drugs are biologics, either derived from Streptococcus species, or, more recently, using recombinantbiotechnology whereby tPA is manufactured using cell culture, resulting in a recombinant tissue plasminogen activator or rtPA.
In people who receive thrombolytic therapy delivered through a catheter, there is a risk of hemorrhage as a side effect. Scientists have studied whether measuring fibrinogen in blood can be used as a biomarker to predict hemorrhage. As of 2017 it was not known if this works or not.
^"Indications for fibrinolytic therapy in suspected acute myocardial infarction: collaborative overview of early mortality and major morbidity results from all randomised trials of more than 1000 patients. Fibrinolytic Therapy Trialists' (FTT) Collaborative Group". Lancet. 343 (8893): 311–22. 5 February 1994. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(94)91161-4. PMID7905143.
^ abHarvey D. White; Frans J. J. Van de Werf (1998). "Clinical Cardiology: New Frontiers Thrombolysis for Acute Myocardial Infarction". Circulation. 97 (16): 1632–1646. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.97.16.1632. PMID9593569.
^Poorthuis, Michiel H. F.; Brand, Eelco C.; Hazenberg, Constantijn E. V. B.; Schutgens, Roger E. G.; Westerink, Jan; Moll, Frans L.; de Borst, Gert J. (2017-03-05). "Plasma fibrinogen level as a potential predictor of hemorrhagic complications after catheter-directed thrombolysis for peripheral arterial occlusions". Journal of Vascular Surgery. 65 (5): 1519–1527.e26. doi:10.1016/j.jvs.2016.11.025. ISSN1097-6809. PMID28274749.