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Blood Clot Ultrasound
Nearly 40 percent of people who suffer from a pulmonary embolism - that`s a blood clot in the lungs - also face major heart problems.
But they appear fine and doctors often miss it. Now a new treatment is using ultrasound energy to stop those clots and save lives.
"I try to work out every day to some extent, consisting either of running, weights, exercise equipment, swimming or biking," says embolism patient Thomas Raspet.
The 59-year-old Raspet loves to exercise. So when he had trouble finishing a 10-mile race last year, he knew something was wrong.
"I was short of breath," Raspet says. "My times were pathetic, really slow. I was almost fearful I wouldn`t finish."
Turns out Raspet had a massive blood clot lodged in his lungs. It was so big that it was pushing on his chest.
"First time it happened, I had no indication as to what it was," Raspet says. "I thought I was having a heart attack. I had severe pressure on my heart. I was out of breath."
"Mr. Raspet had a sub-massive pulmonary embolism," says radiologist Dr. Keith Sterling. "So he looked fine, he had extensive pulmonary embolism."
And that embolism was causing his heart to work harder causing right heart failure, a condition that can lead to severe hypertension and death.
While most clots are treated with clot-busting medication called TPA, Dr. Sterling told him his condition was too severe. Simply using drugs wouldn`t be enough.
Instead they got his consent to try a new device. still in clinical trials. A special catheter called the ekos.
"It delivers not only the thrombolitic medication through the catheter," Dr. Sterling says. "But it also has ultrasound energy that helps loosen up the clot and allows thrombolitic or the T-P-A to work faster and more effectively."
Sterling says using the special catheter also reduces the amount of drugs a patient needs. So Thomas Raspet only needed about a quarter of the medication that he otherwise would have used if he was treated with drugs alone.
"The recovery time here was about three weeks before I was back resembling my strength," Raspet says.
Raspet says he`s made a full recovery though doctors still monitor him for new clots every few weeks. He`s also gotten back to exercising. Doctors say he should avoid marathons, but his goal is to run a half-marathon next year.
"There is some concern for a full marathon, the pounding on the feet that would then stimulate more clotting," Raspet says. "And, why take the risk? Do 13 miles and enjoy it."
After treating Raspet for two pulmonary embolisms, doctors figured out that it was blood disorder causing them to occur. He`s now on blood thinners to treat the condition.