Doctors call it a game-changer. A new tool that helps clear blood clots that could be fatal. NCH recently used this option on a man who had a pulmonary embolism that was impacting his heart.

Robert Van Winkle was recovering from a severely broken leg. But instead of getting better, his troubles soon got worse. “I had a hard time breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath. And I had a lot of pain in my chest,” Van Winkle said.

Fearing a heart attack he rushed to the hospital and learned he had two blood clots that had formed deep in the veins in his leg before moving up the arteries becoming a pulmonary embolism.

“Those get wedged into the pulmonary artery, which supplies blood flow to the lungs, which accounts for the shortness of breath and chest pain,” said Dr. Bruce Bordlee who is an interventional radiologist with ProScan Imaging. “If the clot is large enough, it could be fatal.”

Van Winkle was told that the clots had to be removed. Blood thinners would take too long to dissolve them. Instead, Dr. Bordlee opted to use the FlowTriever manufactured by the company Inari. Performing the procedure at NCH, Dr. Bordlee inserted a catheter through the groin and snaked it to the blood clots which were making it hard to breathe. The disposable device then uses a syringe to remove the clots.

“We’re able to do a single session of what we call mechanical thrombectomy, in which we use suction, to actually aspirate the clot out of the pulmonary artery,” Dr. Bordlee said. Prior to using this technology, a patient might lose several liters of blood during a typical clot removal. But with this device, the clot is removed and filtered, with the remaining blood returned right back to the patient. “So despite us aspirating blood and blood clots out of the patients, the blood loss is minimal.”

The procedure was over in less than 30 minutes. Van Winkle describes being awake the entire time. “All of a sudden, they were done. I was like, okay, I can breathe again.”

It’s estimated that 100,000 people in the U.S. die from pulmonary embolisms each year. This FDA-approved device makes treating them more efficient.

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