Health Team

Technique eliminates clots, gets patients on their feet

Posted February 6, 2009 2:36 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Nearly 1 million Americans suffer from a blood-clotting disease that can threaten their lives as well as cause painful swelling in the legs. However, a new, simple procedure can eliminate clots and get patients back on their feet.

Ramon Calvo suffers from deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT, which causes blood clots to form in veins deep in the body. A few weeks ago, the retired New York City policeman couldn't stand on his legs, which blood clots had swollen.

"The pain is excruciating, and you can't lift your weight up on a step," Calvo said.

DVT's biggest risk comes when a clot breaks off, travels to the heart or lungs and cuts off blood supply to those organs. Blood thinners can prevent that scenario, but they often can't affect pain or swelling.

The traditional DVT treatment is expensive and invasive and takes several days, creating a higher risk of bleeding.

Calvo elected to undergo a new, two-part treatment called the Power-Pulse Spray and Angiojet.

"This is much safer for the patients. It's also less time-consuming, and the bleeding-complication rate is almost nonexistent,"said Dr. Robert Lookstien, associate director of interventional radiology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

In the procedure, a catheter full of medicine is fed into the affected veins, loosening the clots. Then, doctors use the same catheter to vacuum the clot and clear the vein.

As most patients do, Calvo felt results the day after the treatment.

"The improvement was just remarkable," he said. "The pain now is not there. There's no pain."

More hospitals across the county have started to offer this procedure, but it is not available everywhere.

Researchers at Mt. Sinai are conducting a study to prove the procedure's effectiveness and, they hope, encourage medical practitioners to make it more widely available.