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Heart Disease Health Center

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Thrombolytics for Heart Attack and Unstable Angina


Generic Name Brand Name
alteplase Activase
reteplase Retavase
streptokinase Streptase
tenecteplase TNKase

How It Works

Thrombolytics are used to treat some people who are having a heart attack. They are typically given in a vein (intravenously, or IV). These drugs dissolve or break up blood clots that are blocking blood flow through a coronary artery. Clots cause most heart attacks.

Why It Is Used

Thrombolytics are used in the hospital as soon as possible after a heart attack. They work best if they are given within 3 hours of a heart attack.1

Thrombolytics are not an option for everyone. They are not used if you have a high risk of having serious problems, such as severe bleeding.

How Well It Works

After a heart attack, thrombolytic medicines help to get blood flowing back to the heart.1

Side Effects

Thrombolytics are given in the hospital. So a person is watched closely for any side effects.

The most common side effect is bleeding inside the body.

Other side effects may include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Thrombolytics are also used to treat blood clots that cause strokes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


  1. Hass EE, et al. (2011). ST-segmented elevation myocardial infarction. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1354-1385. New York: McGraw-Hill.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical ReviewerStephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology

Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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