In a new experimental procedure, doctors have saved the life of a man who had a 24-inch long blood clot stretching from his heart to his legs.
Todd Dunlap, a 62-year-old who recently became a grandfather, was the first person to undergo the procedure, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The blood clot could have broken away and become stuck in his lungs had he not undergone the procedure, which is a new alternative to open-heart surgery.
"The clot clogged his heart chamber like a wad of gum in a pipe. Every moment that passed increased the risk that the clot would migrate to his lungs and kill him," Dr. John Moriarty, Dunlap’s physician, stated in a UCLA release.
Dunlap had arrived at the emergency room in August, complaining of fatigue, extreme cold and shortness of breath. A CT scan showed that a nearly 2-foot-long blood clot could potentially break loose and kill him. Though the AngioVac procedure had never been completed successfully in California, Dunlap chose it over open-heart surgery.
Doctors slid a camera down Dunlap’s esophagus to monitor his heart. They then pushed a hose through his neck artery that plugged into his heart, and place the other end through a vein at his groin. The hose was hooked onto a heart-bypass device that caused suction, creating the “vacuum” that pulled the clot out of his body.
Because the clot removed was a solid, there was no need for Dunlap to have a blood transfusion.
Open-heart surgery generally takes twice as long as the minimally-invasive, 3-hour long alternative. Surgery would also involve cutting the breastbone in half, and a long recovery to heal the breastbone and ribs.
"I'm thrilled that I didn't have to go through open-heart surgery," Dunlap said in the UCLA release. "This procedure is a great option for the older, frail person who wouldn't survive open-heart surgery.