Drug Information

Thrombolytics for Heart Attack and Unstable Angina

Thrombolytics for Heart Attack and Unstable Angina


Generic Name Brand Name
alteplase Activase
reteplase Retavase
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

What To Think About

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




  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.

Last Revised: April 29, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC – Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC – Interventional Cardiology