Northside Health Library

Fibrinolysis - primary or secondary


Fibrinolysis is a normal body process that keeps naturally occurring blood clots from growing and causing problems.

Primary fibrinolysis refers to the normal breakdown of clots.

Secondary fibrinolysis is the breakdown of blood clots due to a medical disorder, medicine, or other cause. This may cause severe bleeding.

Alternative Names

Primary fibrinolysis; Secondary fibrinolysis


Blood clots form on a protein called fibrin. The breakdown of fibrin (fibrinolysis) can increase under certain conditions, such as:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Cancer
  • Intense exercise
  • Low blood sugar
  • Not enough oxygen to tissues

Sometimes, medicines may be given to help blood clots breakdown more quickly. For example, if a blood clot causes a heart attack.


Schafer AI. Hemorrhagic disorders: Disseminated intravascular coagulation, liver failure, and vitamin K deficiency. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 178.

Review Date: 3/14/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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