About one in 500 Americans suffers from deep vein thrombosis, a condition where blood clots form in the veins of the leg. Nearly 100,000 die each year when a clot breaks away and travels to the lungs or heart. Now, there’s a new way to vacuum up these dangerous clots.
For years, Todd Dunlap was an avid skier, hiker, and volleyball player. “I’ve always been an athlete,” Todd Dunlap said.
However, Todd had to give up his active lifestyle when doctors found a massive, two-foot long blood clot growing in his body.
“The blood clot went from below my groin to the top of my heart,” Todd said. If a piece broke loose, it could travel to Todd’s lungs and kill him instantly. The standard fix was major surgery where doctors open the chest, stop the heart, and remove the clot.
Instead, UCLA Interventional Radiologist John Moriarty offered Todd a new procedure called AngioVac. “What it is, is a fancy vacuum cleaner,” John Moriarty, MD, Assistant Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said.
Doctors placed a tube down Todd’s neck artery and plugged one end to his heart. Another tube was placed into his groin and attached to a machine.
The device sucked out the clot; then, restored clean blood. Todd hopes to get back to his favorite activities soon, but his most important goal involves a 10-month-old little boy.
“The skiing and volleyball is great, but playing with your grandson is right on top,” Todd said. The AngioVac device could be used on other types of clots in different areas of the body. Just like any procedure, there are risks – which include bleeding, blood vessel damage, and the chance that a clot could break off and travel to the lungs.