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New Procedure at Texas Health Plano Uses Vacuum to Treat Blood Clots
01/21/2014

PLANO, Texas — A new way to treat blood clots at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano has a man from The Colony walking into the kind of retirement he'd always dreamed of. An innovative new procedure that uses a device called AngioVac is opening up arterial pathways for patients who were previously confined by debilitating and potentially life-threatening blood clots.

Harold Heald and Dr. Vijay Ramanath
Harold Heald and Dr. Vijay Ramanath

For Harold Heald, 72, this means the difference between using a walker and standing on his own two feet – unassisted — again.

“We like to go out to dinner, go to church, and my wife likes to go out shopping and she wants me to come with her,” Heald said. “She and my children are the best thing God’s ever given me, so I like to go and do things together with her.”

When Heald visited the emergency room last December, he was in poor shape. He was prone to blood clots, and due to past deep vein thrombosis, a condition that he had dealt with frequently over that past 20 years, he had swelling and pain in his legs. Heald was confined to a wheelchair and a walker, stemming from recent injuries including a fractured hip and femur.

“I felt like a ticking time bomb,” he said. “Once you have a blood clot, you constantly worry that another one will develop and could break free at any moment. I am supposed to be enjoying my retirement and grandchildren, not in constant pain and fear.”

Originally from West Texas, Heald is nothing short of a cowboy. Growing up on a farm, riding horses and ranching cattle, Heald always led an active life. But for the past few years, those formerly active legs had been experiencing poor circulation due to large blood clots. Heald had been on blood thinners for more than 20 years, and had even had a device implanted that essentially filtered his blood, but clots eventually formed around the filter itself and extended into his groin.

Heald had been told by other physicians that there was nothing they could do for him, and that he was not a good candidate for open heart surgery. His blood clot was 10 inches long, extending from the vena cava filter (mid-abdomen) all the way down his left and right groin.

Heald was referred to Dr. Vijay Ramanath, an interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano.

“The AngioVac device has completely changed the way that we can treat blood clots,” said Ramanath. “What previously would have been an extensive open surgery can now be completed with only a small incision in the thigh, and is an excellent example of how we are using ground-breaking technology to provide solutions to patients who otherwise have few or no options.”

A procedure using the AngioVac device is akin to a minimally invasive version of open-heart surgery. Designed to remove large blood clots from blood vessels, it consists of a tube with an expandable, funnel-shaped tip that can be inserted into a blood vessel in the neck or near the groin. Surgeons feed a small camera down the patient’s throat to monitor his heart.

Tubes inserted into the patient’s neck and groin allow the team to feed the patient’s blood through a heart-bypass machine, which provides suction. When opened up, the tip of the AngioVac tube captures the blood clots, and the blood is filtered through the bypass machine and returned to the patient, eliminating the need for a blood transfusion. Recovery times for this procedure are often half the time of those from open-heart surgery.

Ramanath and his team at Texas Health Plano are the first in the Texas Health Resources system to use this advanced procedure on a patient.

“This device is another example of how Texas Health Plano is working to provide advanced technology and high-quality care close to home,” said Mike Evans, R.N., M.S.N., president of Texas Health Plano. “We are very proud of the way that our employees and physicians on the medical staff continue to work together to provide patient-centered, minimally invasive care.”

Post-procedure, Heald has much improved circulation in his legs and feet, and is sleeping much more soundly. Better yet, he is finally able to lead the lifestyle in his retirement he’d always envisioned.

“Now, my feet are a nice, rosy color,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good and getting around better. I’m looking up and I’m hopeful. I’m getting around better and better.”

For Heald, that includes an active life with his wife and grandchildren — just the kind of retirement he had envisioned.

Ellie Huff, R.N., M.S.N., director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Texas Health Plano, said the procedure helped provide a solution for patients who otherwise would have few or no options, and improve their quality of life.

“We are blessed to have physicians on the medical staff who are always working to elevate the level of expertise that Texas Health Plano provides to our North Texas community,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 Americans develop deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism each year. These types of clots are much more common in the elderly. Up to 100,000 Americans die annually from these conditions. In 25 percent of people with a pulmonary embolism, sudden death is the first and only symptom.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano is a 366-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, providing technologically advanced care to Plano and surrounding areas since 1991. The hospital’s services include orthopedics, cardiovascular services, oncology, pediatrics and women’s services. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Plano has more than 1,600 employees and 1,300 physicians on the medical staff. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL or visit TexasHealth.org/Plano.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 24 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals, a large physician group, outpatient facilities, and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education.

For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.

Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.

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