Local News

Dangerous Blood Clots Focus Of Drug Trial

Posted November 5, 2004 2:59 a.m. EST

— Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a condition where there is a blood clot in a vein that accompanies an artery.

DVT mainly affects the veins in the lower leg and the thigh and could become fatal.

Certain factors make DVT more likely to occur -- including long flights and extended bedrest.

Samantha Slapnik developed DVT during her pregnancy. It was not diagnosed until the day after her son, Jacob, was born.

"It could have hurt my baby. It could have hurt me. One of us could have died," she said. "It was just very, very frightening."

Slapnik had a blood clot filling a vein from her thigh to her abdomen.

If part of a clot breaks off, it can travel to the heart and into the lungs causing a potentially deadly pulmonary embolism.

"When we first got started with Samantha, a segment of her iliac vein was completely clotted," said Dr. Steven Kagan, a vascular surgeon at Rex Hospital.

As with all DVT patients, Kagan put Slapnik on blood-thinning medication to keep the clot from growing and to prevent parts from breaking off.

"It doesn't take care of the underlying clot that's still there," Kagan warned.

For Slapnik, Kagan also used Urokinase, a potent clot dissolving drug.

The drug is intended for use on clots in the lung, but a new national study -- of which Rex Hospital is a part -- will measure how well the drug helps DVT patients.

As the drug is sprayed on the clot through a catheter, most of the clot can also be removed.

"So we can dissolve it with medication. We can catch any particles with a filter and then we have a few mechanical devices that we can use to actually physically suck up the clot," Kagan said.

Slapnik is also taking coumadin, a blood thinner in pill form. She is exercising, feeling good and just happy she and Jacob are healthy.

"The baby's fabulous" she said. "He's 2½-months-old and wide-eyed and alert. He's the love of my life."

Those also at risk for DVT are people with leg or hip injuries and cancer patients.