Breakthrough Treatment for Lung Clots Available Right Here

Breakthrough Treatment for Lung Clots Available Right Here

Most of us probably take blood clotting for granted. But when a blood clot doesn’t dissolve, it can become dangerous—sometimes even deadly.

While you can develop a blood clot in just about any blood vessel in your body, clots are most likely to affect one of your legs, resulting in a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If a clot breaks free from a vein in the legs and travels to the lung arteries, it can block blood flow and lead to a pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary embolisms can increase the heart’s workload and sometimes cause cardiogenic shock (a life-threatening condition in which your heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs). That’s why a pulmonary embolism is considered a medical emergency.

A Rising Concern

According to the American Heart Association, the death rate for people who experience a pulmonary embolism is rising. Recently, doctors have also discovered that patients with severe COVID-19 have a greater risk of developing blood clots that could cause a pulmonary embolism (or a stroke or heart attack).

Fortunately, new treatment approaches for blood clots are making a game-changing difference.

“Historically, we’ve just given patients blood thinners and hoped the body would absorb these clots,” said Marcel Letourneau, DO, board-certified cardiologist, Spectrum Health Heart & Vascular Center at Holland Hospital. “Now we can remove them with a minimally invasive procedure that provides immediate and dramatic results.”

Game-Changing Treatment, Close to Home

Dr. Letourneau now performs a procedure called pulmonary thrombectomy at Holland Hospital. During the procedure, a special catheter is guided through a tiny incision in the skin into the pulmonary artery to the clots. As the catheter is retracted, a suction device pulls the lung clots out of the artery and then out of the patient through the incision.

“The procedure doesn’t require clot-busting medicines that can result in bleeding elsewhere in the body,” he said. “It allows us to treat these critical patients more safely and effectively, ultimately saving more lives.”

What’s more, patients who’ve undergone a pulmonary thrombectomy can usually go home that very same day versus waiting multiple days in the hospital for blood thinners to work.

Along with lung clot intervention, Dr. Letourneau also uses specialized catheters to treat DVT. These catheter-based procedures can help reduce the likelihood of post-thrombotic syndrome, whereby patients who’ve had DVT suffer from chronic pain, swelling and other symptoms in the leg.

Preventing Blood Clots

The best way to prevent a pulmonary embolism is to try and stop a blood clot from forming deep in your leg veins. If you’re at risk of this happening, here are a few things that may lower your chances of developing these dangerous blood clots:

  • Wear compression socks, if your doctor has recommended them. The extra pressure these socks create helps blood move through your veins and leg muscles.

  • Exercise. Get up and walk if you’ve had an illness that’s kept you immobile for too long, or if you’re getting over a long stay in the hospital. Walking keeps the blood in your legs flowing.

  • Stretch during long flights (or car rides). If possible, take an opportunity to walk around every few hours. Flex your ankles by pulling your toes toward you if you can’t stand up. Here are some other movement tips for preventing DVT.

  • Manage your lifestyle. Quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re on birth control or hormone replacement therapy, talk to your doctor about your risk for blood clots. You should also be extra vigilant if you have diabetes or heart failure, or a history of kidney disease or certain autoimmune diseases, or a family history of blood clots. Discuss these health issues with your doctor to ensure you’re managing them well.

For more on the health of your heart, watch a Heart to Heart About Cardiac Health. Together with the Spectrum Health Heart & Vascular Center, Holland Hospital offers comprehensive, award-winning cardiology and vascular services. Learn more at hollandhospital.org/cardiology.

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