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Valley Baptist-Harlingen to use new devices to treat cardiac patients

by Rami Mondez on Oct 24, 2023, 10:48 AM

Cardiologists at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen are using new tools to help patients suffering from blockages caused by blood clots, including one type that can lead to a life-threatening condition.

“A pulmonary embolism is described as a blood clot that clogs or blocks an artery leading to one of the lungs. While the condition is not always fatal, the blockage can at the very least cause serious impacts on a patient’s quality of life,” said Dr. James Stone, a cardiologist at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.

Traditional treatments for pulmonary embolisms often dictated a “wait and see” approach, with cardiologists often utilizing blood-thinning or clot-busting medication to break up the blockage in best case scenarios. But since early 2023, Valley Baptist-Harlingen has been utilizing a new device designed to utilize the precise imaging to detect the clot’s location and essentially vacuum it out of the artery, often leading to better outcomes for patients over medication alone.

“We actually have two different devices now – FlowTriever and ClotTriever – that we use for pulmonary embolisms or blood clots, depending on where we have to go in the body to retrieve the clot and fix the blockage,” said Dr. Stone. “For pulmonary embolisms, the FlowTriever is a glorified sucking device. Using catheters inserted via a vein in a patient’s groin, we navigate to where the clot is located and apply suction to the clot and remove it.”

For clots that are located in smaller, more delicate, and often harder-to-reach locations of the body, such as veins in the abdomen or chest cavity, cardiologists can utilize ClotTriever in the cath lab when appropriate.

“Think of the ClotTriever as a net-like device,” Dr. Stone continued. “We pass a thin wire through the patient’s body to the clot and use it to deploy a self-expanding cage that engulfs the clot and captures it. From there we remove the entire device along with the clot.”

Prior to the use of the new devices, a similar process was used, but instead of using suction or mechanical devices to remove a clot, cardiologists would apply medication to the area with the goal of breaking up the material blocking the artery.

“With the FlowTriever, we are able to aspirate the artery until all of the clot is removed,” he stated. “The beauty with both systems is that we’re able to capture a significant amount of the clotted material versus before. Before we used much smaller catheters that would essentially leak out clot-busting medication, but that didn’t always work for hardened or chronic clots, or simply wasn’t an option for some patients.”

In most cases utilizing the devices, procedures are completed in a few hours and patients can often leave the hospital the following day, which can be a significant difference over previous treatment types.

“The use of both devices has been a “game changer” for patients suffering from pulmonary embolisms or chronic blood clots, especially for those patients who may not tolerate traditional blood thinners or clot-busting medications,” stated Dr. Stone. “For patients that have a history of bleeding, or active bleeding, or those who have had a stroke within the last six months, clot-busting or blood-thinning medication simply wasn’t an option. But now we’re helping patients that we couldn’t help before and experiencing high rates of success with lower complications. We’re saving lives and improving quality of life for these patients.”