Heart Disease and Clot Buster Drugs

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 14, 2023
2 min read

Clot buster drugs, also known as thrombolytic therapy, are a type of heart medication given in the hospital through an IV to break up blood clots. Heart attack and ischemic stroke are the two main conditions that clot busters are used for.

These powerful heart disease drugs are given to:

  • Prevent the ongoing damage of heart attacks.
  • Halt ongoing damage from ischemic stroke.
  • Break up blood clots in other blood vessels in the body.

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of stroke and heart attack. Call for emergency help (911 in most areas) right away if you or someone you know is having them. The faster treatment is given, the quicker blood flow will be restored to the area and the greater the chance to prevent long-term damage, or even death.

There are several drugs to break up clots, including:

  • Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)
  • Tenecteplase
  • Alteplase
  • Urokinase
  • Reteplase
  • Streptokinase

Some people aren't able to take clot busters. Please tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Previous hemorrhagic stroke or bleeding in the brain
  • Known cerebral vascular lesion or tumor
  • Previous allergic reaction to a clot buster, or other allergies
  • Active bleeding (excluding your menstrual period)
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Bleeding disorder, or recent history of bleeding in any part of the body
  • Severe liver disease
  • Recent surgery (less than 2 weeks ago)
  • Trauma, falls, or blows to the head within the past 3 months
  • Recent CPR
  • Active peptic ulcer

Certain drugs may increase your risk of bleeding if you are prescribed clot busters. Tell your doctor the names of all medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal medications, supplements, or vitamins you are taking. Examples of these include:

Also tell your doctor if you’ve been given any clot busters in the past 6 months. Some thrombolytic medications cannot be given a second time within that period.

As with any drug, there can be side effects with clot busters. Notify your doctor if you notice:

If you have any questions about thrombolytic medications, ask your doctor.