minimally invasive new surgical procedure is changing the way heart surgeons at St. Clair Hospital remove blood clots from the heart and blood vessels of persons with pulmonary emboli and deep vein thrombosis. The procedure can also be used to remove tumors and cardiac vegetation—infectious clumps of tissue in the heart that are associated with pacemakers and dialysis. Using a clot removal device called an AngioVac, cardiovascular surgeons at St. Clair are able to treat patients without performing open chest surgery, the standard approach to treatment of this potentially fatal condition.
The procedure takes place in an operating room under general anesthesia and only requires two small incisions, in the femoral or jugular veins, for access. The technology includes an aspiration device plus an external bypass circuit with a pump that creates a vacuum. Using ultrasound imaging, surgeons visualize the clot, tumor or vegetation and suction it; filter out any debris through the external circuit; and return the clean, filtered blood to the patient. Most patients will be discharged in a day or two, unless there are underlying conditions that require additional monitoring.
Most blood clots (thrombi) originate in the lower legs. They occur when the blood becomes thickened and forms clumps, usually due to prolonged immobility after surgery, prolonged travel or illness. When a blood clot breaks off and travels through the blood vessels, it becomes known as an embolus and may lodge in the lungs. This condition, pulmonary embolism, is a life-threatening emergency. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include sudden onset of shortness of breath, pain with breathing, and coughing up blood.
Removal of blood clots with the aspiration device is a safe and effective alternative to an open chest operation, which requires a large incision and longer recovery.
For more information on AngioVac at St. Clair Hospital, please call 412.942.5728.