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If you’ve just had surgery, have been sick and lying in bed for a prolonged period, have been traveling on a long trip, or are pregnant you are at an increased risk of developing blood clots in your veins.
When blood thickens and clots within a vein deep inside your body, usually in your leg, this is a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
While some people with DVT have no symptoms, others may experience (from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute):
If the clot in the vein breaks free and travels to an artery in the lungs where it becomes lodged and blocks the flow of blood, the patient suffers a pulmonary embolism (PE). Sometimes the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are the first signs someone has a deep vein thrombosis. Those symptoms can include:
The majority of patients with a pulmonary embolism receive blood thinning medication. For larger clots, however, this isn’t always effective treatment, as blood thinners such as heparin and Coumadin help prevent the spread of clots, but do not break up or dissolve them. These large clots can be life threatening. For these patients past efforts at infusing powerful blood clot dissolving agents through an intravenous catheter were found to be better at dissolving clot, but unfortunately were often associated with serious bleeding complications.
Now, when people are in danger of dying from a large blood clot, interventional radiologists or cardiologists are able to insert a catheter into the artery of the lung and dissolve the clot by directly delivering the clot busting drug.
In order to make the best decision for each individual patient, when someone comes to the emergency room with a large pulmonary embolism at Elmhurst Hospital or Edward Hospital, the respective multidisciplinary PE Response Team goes into action. This rapid response team includes experts from pulmonary critical care, interventional radiology and cardiology, working together to come up with the best plan to treat the clot.
“The rapid response team has been a major contribution to care provided at our facility through heightened coordination and providing expedited care for patients who have massive or submassive pulmonary embolism who qualify for more aggressive interventions,” says Dr. Phillip Cozzi, a pulmonologist with Elmhurst Memorial Elmhurst Clinic.
There are ways to reduce your risk of DVT. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these prevention tips:
Interventional radiologists work with the smallest of instruments to treat the biggest of health problems. Learn more about Interventional Radiology at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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