BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A state-of-the art-treatment is saving many lives across the Gulf Coast for people who have life-threatening blood clots. Doctors say it's a far cry from the open-chest surgery option and is much safer. This endovascular treatment dissolves blood clots and restores blood flow with fewer risks, helping doctors fight a potentially deadly condition.
Blood clots, a potentially life-threatening condition, affect more than 6,000 Americans every year. According to Dr. Michael Hogan, a vascular surgeon at Merit Health in Biloxi, "Once it happens and it's severe enough, it can cause immediate death depending on where the clot is lodged."
It starts with Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. That's when a clot forms in the deep veins of the body, most commonly in the leg. It can become deadly if that blood clot breaks off and travels through the blood stream and lodges in the lungs.
"Pulmonary embolism, you hear a lot about it happening when people go on a long plane ride, or when you're immobile for a long time, or even after surgery when you're immobile," said Dr. Hogan. "Typically, a clot will produce in the legs and travel to the lungs."
Those blood clots may also travel to the brain or heart, and while the leg is the most common starting point, it can also occur in the veins of the arm, abdomen, or around the brain. Dr. Hogan says new technology to treat DVT and pulmonary embolism is saving more lives.
The minimally invasive procedure uses ultrasound technology, said Dr. Hogan, combined with a controlled drip of clot busting drugs to dissolve the clots quickly and safely. It's done by using a small catheter through a vein in the leg.
"The ultrasonic agitation forces it into the clot to break it up, with the clot having the consistency anywhere from cranberry jelly to peanut butter," said Dr. Hogan.
According to the doctor, it's important to know the symptoms. DVT may start with a swollen or painful leg that may be warm to the touch. There might also be discoloration of the skin.
"A lot of times people experience abrupt chest pain and severe shortness of breath," said Dr. Hogan. At that point, he continued, it's considered a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately.
To help prevent DVT, patients are encouraged to exercise, eat a healthful diet, quit smoking, and manage any health issues, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, or heart irregularities.