What is Urokinase?

D. Jeffress

Urokinase is a type of biological protein that helps to thin the blood and break up clots. Patients who are hospitalized with active or suspected clots in their lungs commonly receive intravenous doses of urokinase to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of fatal complications. The drug is carefully administered by a doctor or trained nurse, and a patient is constantly monitored during treatment to detect any adverse reactions. Lasting side effects are uncommon, but it is possible to experience dizziness; easy bruising and bleeding; and chest pain after receiving the medication.

Urokinase can be administered through an intravenous drip to quickly thin the blood and prevent clotting.
Urokinase can be administered through an intravenous drip to quickly thin the blood and prevent clotting.

The kidneys produce and release natural urokinase to promote continuous blood flow and remove obstructions. Medicinal urokinase supplements the body's natural production to combat pulmonary embolisms and some types of dangerous blood clots outside of the lungs. The drug's anticoagulant properties take effect as soon as it is injected into the bloodstream and reaches the site of the blockage. Treatment is most effective when it is given at the first signs of an embolism, such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain.

After diagnostic imaging tests confirm the presence of a clot, a doctor mixes a solution of water, sodium chloride, and urokinase powder. The solution is put into a clear pouch that is attached to a drip tube and catheter. The doctor then inserts the catheter into a large vein in the patient's arm and makes sure the drip tube is flowing at the proper rate. The amount of solution given depends on the patient's age and weight. If problems do not resolve within a few hours, the dosage amount or the rate of infusion may be increased.

Mild side effects are common with urokinase, especially with initial doses. A person may feel lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous for a few minutes after the drug is administered. Some people also have headaches and difficulties breathing and swallowing. Since urokinase affects the consistency of blood, a patient can experience easy bruising, increased menstrual flow, nosebleeds, or bloody gums for several hours after an infusion. Major internal bleeding complications are rare, and careful monitoring during treatment can usually prevent the problem.

Urokinase can react adversely with some other types of drugs, so it is important to tell a doctor about current medication use before undergoing treatment. Aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other types of blood thinners can decrease the effectiveness of treatment or cause potentially serious complications such as heart attacks or stroke. When the proper precautions are taken, most patients respond well to treatment and are able to fully recover from their symptoms.

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