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Embolectomy: What is it and How is it Done?

Embolectomy: What is it and How is it Done?

Embolectomy and thrombectomy are two surgeries considered life-saving and usually performed only in emergency circumstances. Embolectomy and thrombectomy are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they both are a little different from each other.

In order to understand what is embolism and embolectomy, let’s first understand the health problem better.

What is embolectomy?

Many times, due to different factors such as diseases, blood clots are formed in the blood vessels. Usually, a solid-mass stationary clot is known as a thrombus, whereas an embolus is said to have developed when a part or the whole clot gets dislocated and starts traveling through the circulatory system.

When this blood clot – embolus travels from its original place to another place in the body, obstructing a blood vessel, it is known as embolism. Hence basically, an embolus is a moving thrombus. These clots can be extremely risky and even fatal.

Embolism can block blood flow. It can also result in organ or tissue damage. The clot needs to be removed so that the blood flow becomes uninterrupted again.

Embolism comprises of a venous embolism which is also termed as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and arterial embolism.

Venous embolism can pass through the lungs and can lead to dangerous pulmonary embolism (PE). It causes serious difficulty in breathing, while arterial embolism can travel to the brain and can lead to a stroke. In cases where medication is unable to dissolve embolus, the clot is then required to be removed through a surgery known as embolectomy. The embolectomy surgery is a procedure that is opted for when all other treatment options are ineffective.

What are the risks of embolectomy?

Some of the risks of embolectomy are:

  • Infection
  • Blood vessel or nearby tissue damage
  • Bleeding
  • Dislocation of blood clot fragments and their movement into the other parts of the body – including lungs, brain, or heart.
  • Increased pressure in the muscle, reducing the blood flow
  • The surgeon may be unable to remove the clot
  • The surgeon may detect some other disease in the blood vessel which needs further surgery to be treated.
  • There may be a reduced or complete loss of blood supply to the limb leading to an amputation.

How to prepare for embolectomy

Some of the basic yet important pre-requisites or steps conducted before your embolectomy surgery are:

  • You would be asked to sign a consent form by the medical team to give approval for conducting the embolectomy surgery. The consent form will include the reason for which you are undergoing the embolectomy surgery, the procedure of the surgery, and what should be expected after the surgery.
  • You need to inform your surgeon and the team about your allergies (if you have any) with respect to any medicines or treatment.
  • If you are eating any medicine currently, whether it is prescribed, OTC, herbal remedies, or even illegal drugs, you have to inform the surgeon and his/her team about it.
  • There would be a small tube (IV catheter) that will be inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This lets medicine enter directly into your blood and provides you fluids, if required.

What happens during embolectomy?

Embolectomy might be performed using traditional open-heart surgery or minimally invasive one:

  • Catheter embolectomy is a minimally invasive surgery with the advantage of faster recovery and lesser side effects. In this type of embolectomy, a catheter is inserted into the affected blood vessel to remove the clot.
  • Surgical embolectomy is the traditional open-heart surgery which is performed to remove the blood clot from the affected vein or artery. The surgeon will divide the breastbone (sternotomy) and after that, surgeon will open the affected blood vessel to get the clot out of your body. At times, a net or filter would be placed in the inferior vena cava (the large vein returning blood from the lower body) to ensure that there are no more clots travelling to the lungs and heart.

What is the recovery period?

Approximately, you would be required to stay for 4-6 days in the hospital after the surgery. The actual recovery period of embolectomy highly depends on how well you take care of yourself, your overall health, and how well you follow your doctor’s post-surgery instructions.

Patient Care and Management: Post-surgical Care for Embolectomy

In order to recover faster and better, follow these simple suggestions. Patient care and management post embolectomy surgery are extremely crucial to ensure quick and correct regaining of health.


  • Your doctor would give you a follow-up schedule and dates for the next appointments. Ensure you follow it thoroughly.
  • Don’t miss out on any routine tests or check-ups.
  • If you face any troubles or health issues in your recovery phase, get an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Nutrition, workout, and other lifestyle alterations

  • Resting is important. Get a lot of it in your recovery period by aiming for minimum of 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Just follow the treatment instructions and plan given by your healthcare professional which also includes exercising.
  • Keep drinking a lot of fluids to maintain your hydration. But if your doctor has recommended less, then ensure you limit it accordingly.
  • Ask your dietician best foods to eat during this recovery time.
  • Avoid taking too much stress and find ways to calm yourself down in inevitably stressful situations.
  • Avoid smoking completely.
  • Keep yourself updated about what medicines and foods you should have and what you shouldn’t by confirming the same with your doctor.
  • Try to lose weight (if you have to) or maintain a healthy one.
  • Do not drive or work with machinery. Avoid lifting heavy objects as suggested by your doctor or pharmacist. This holds even more importance if you are on pain relieving medications or muscle relaxants.

Consult your doctor immediately if:

  • You have developed infection around your incision area.
  • Your heartbeat gets slow, fast, or irregular.
  • You start feeling pain in your leg or if you have warmth or redness in your leg.
  • You start experiencing abnormal or frequent bleeding or bruising.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Surgical Embolectomy for Acute Pulmonary Thromboembolism https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579785/ Accessed on 23/01/2020

Understanding Thrombectomy and Embolectomy https://brvsc.com/thrombectomy-and-embolectomy/ Accessed on 23/01/2020

Embolectomy https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/embolectomy Accessed on 23/01/2020

Surgical Pulmonary Embolectomy https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.015916 Accessed on 23/01/2020

What is Pulmonary Embolectomy: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results https://www.docdoc.com.sg/info/procedure/pulmonary-embolectomy/ Accessed on 23/01/2020

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated a week ago
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel