Life is saved by ER Colleagues and New Procedure for Treating Blood Clots

San Jose, CA — Judy Walsh of Morgan Hill has seen it all. As a former paramedic and many years as an Emergency Room nurse at Regional Medical Center of San Jose, she knew she was in trouble at home one afternoon when she suddenly couldn't breathe. "I was feeling fine until I bent over to pick up my dog and it felt like someone just pulled a rope around my neck," said Judy. "I was afraid I was going to die." Two months earlier Judy, age 60, underwent a successful knee replacement surgery, which put her at higher risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that originate in leg veins and can travel to the lungs or heart. But she felt great at the time, was exercising regularly and had no reason to believe she would get a pulmonary embolism.

Judy called 9-1-1 and was taken by ambulance to a nearby community hospital. After a CT scan revealed what's called a saddle blood clot, massive enough to straddle both her left and right pulmonary arteries, she was immediately transferred to Regional Medical Center where she could get a higher level of care.

Doctors at Regional feared the mass could break loose and kill her instantly. They immediately administered the clot busting drug tPA, which acts like water on a sugar cube and dissolved some of the clotting. But a large portion of the clot wouldn't budge.

Dr. Arash Padidar, an Interventional Radiologist at Regional was confident a new minimally invasive procedure using a system called "AngioVac" could spare Judy a risky open chest surgery and safely remove the clot from her lung. Regional is the first and only San Jose hospital performing the procedure, and the only Bay Area hospital with an active AngioVac program.

Through a small incision in a vein in Judy's groin, Dr. Padidar inserted the AngioVac device , with an expandable funnel-shaped tip that acts as a vacuum to suction out the clot. Once in place, the AngioVac quickly sucked the large deadly clot away from Judy's lungs. The system then restored the cleansed blood eliminating the need for a blood transfusion. The process was repeated several times until Judy's blood was free of clots or other debris.

"Retrieving a clot from within the lungs or heart used to require open-chest surgery, resulting in longer hospitalization, recovery and rehabilitation times compared to the minimally invasive approach provided by the AngioVac system," said Dr. Padidar. "In addition, the clot-busting drug tPA typically takes three to four days to work. For Judy, tPA was used first but failed due to the clot's large size and density. And in cases like Judy's, there's no time to wait to see if the drug is going to dissolve the clot. Every moment that passed increased the risk that the clot would migrate and cut off her air flow"

Dr. Padidar is conducting an ongoing study to determine which type of clots respond to medication, and which do not. The results will help determine which clots should be more quickly removed with AngioVac.

There are 300-thousand deaths from blood clots in the U.S. per year. It is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

Judy is now back at work caring for others in Regional's Emergency Room. "I feel lucky to be alive," says Judy. "And everyday I'm thankful for Dr. Padiar, his team and the AngioVac system that saved my life."

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