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New Treatment for Potentially Deadly Blood Clots

ORANGE CITY, Fla., April 2, 2014 – Florida Hospital Fish Memorial has a state-of-the-art device to treat Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT), a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. 

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in your body, limiting blood flow. It usually occurs in your leg or pelvis, but it can also occur in your arm, chest or lungs.

Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is the only facility in the area to utilize this special type of technology designed to treat DVT. Called EKOS EkoSonic Ultrasound Endovascular System, it is a minimally-invasive treatment that uses ultrasound technology with sophisticated acoustic conditioning to dissolve clots quickly and safely, restoring blood flow and reducing the risk of complications. 

The procedure uses an innovative “intelligent drug delivery catheter.” In the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab, the device is positioned directly in the blood clot and transmits low power, high-frequency sound waves into the clot. This ultrasonic energy loosens and thins the clot’s fibrin. At the same time, the device creates ultrasonic pressure waves that force a clot-dissolving medication deep into the clot and keep it there so that the clot does not escape downstream. 

Lake Helen resident Mark Eidson, 53, knows firsthand how life-saving this technology can be. 

Edison, a certified nursing assistant who works the night shift in an area nursing home, had been struggling with severe shortness of breath for nearly a week. 

“I started getting out of breath at work, just walking up and down the halls – and it isn’t even that big of a building,” he said. When he came home, he noticed he was still out of breath and couldn’t walk from his bedroom to the bathroom without straining for air.

“I have high blood pressure, so I thought something could be wrong with my medications,” Edison said. “You always hear that shortness of breath is a symptom to take seriously, so I went to the ER because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t my heart. I wasn’t showing symptoms when I was sitting, but after a quick blood test and an imaging test, they found blood clots in my lungs. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Edison was diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots, in both lungs. 

“This is a serious diagnosis. Pulmonary embolisms can be fatal within a few hours and we had to act fast,” said Dr. Jeffrey Blonder, director of interventional radiology at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial. “A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot is blocking the flow of blood in the lungs. Obviously, this is bad for breathing, but it also puts significant strain on the heart, putting these patients at an extremely high risk for a heart attack.”

“It never dawned on me that my shortness of breath was that serious; I didn’t feel that bad,” Edison said. “The doctors told me that if I had waited another day, this could have turned out very differently because the blood clots in my lungs were causing so much pressure on my heart.”

Blood clots are dangerous because they can stop the flow of blood. For example, if a patient has a blood clot in the legs, the limb itself slowly starts to die due to the lack of blood flow. If the clot itself were to break off, it could travel to the brain, causing a stroke and even death. If the clot travels to the heart, it can cause a heart attack and heart muscle can die.

In Edison’s case, EKOS was inserted into the femoral artery in the groin in Florida Hospital Fish Memorial’s cardiac catheterization lab, and then snaked through the blood vessels to the clot, where an ultrasonic wave was distributed, helping to break it up. 

“I was awake for the procedure and it wasn’t painful,” Edison said. “Just like ultrasonics can break-up kidney stones, they explained this technology uses similar ultrasonics to break-up the blood clots.”

“Before we had this technology, we’d have to give the patient high doses of clot-busting drugs systemically, something that can take many hours or even days to dissolve a blood clot. Additionally, this traditional therapy would circulate a blood thinner through the blood stream throughout the entire body. Unfortunately, this causes a higher incidence of complications, such as getting bleeds elsewhere in the body or the brain,” said Michelle Keith, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial vascular center navigator. “In the case of pulmonary embolisms, traditional therapies can also involve cracking open the chest, which could result in a serious consequences. The new EKOS technology avoids these obstacles.”

The EKOS technology emits less medication than the older method of treatment and offers patients a quicker recovery. 

“Now I’m feeling much better and no longer struggle with shortness of breath,” Edison said. “By changing my diet and walking more, I’ve lost about 20 pounds. If I were to feel out of breath again, I would act more quickly next time, instead of waiting that week.”

There are an estimated 600,000 new cases of DVT every year in the US. It is the major cause of massive pulmonary embolisms, which results in 60,000 deaths annually. 

Although long periods of sitting, such as on an airplane, can cause DVT, it is rare. Most DVT occurs in sick or hospitalized patients who have had surgery, broken limbs, cancer or history of a heart attack, stroke or congestive heart therapy. 

Common symptoms of DVT are redness or skin discoloration; leg pain or tenderness, especially when walking or standing; swelling of the affected body part; sensation of warmth; and leg fatigue. 

EKOS is most effective when the clot is relatively new, when patients have had symptoms for less than 30 days. 

If a clot is not dissolved within a few weeks, it can permanently damage the valves in the veins, creating a condition called Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS). An estimated 60 to 70 percent of patients with DVT eventually develop PTS, which can cause disability and impact quality of life. 

To prevent DVT, patients are encouraged to exercise, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, and manage any co-morbidities, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, or heart irregularities.

To view high-resolution EKOS animation, please visit here.

About Florida Hospital Fish Memorial
Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is a member of Adventist Health System, a faith-based health care organization with 45 hospital campuses and nearly 8,300 licensed beds in 10 states. With 175-beds, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial provides exceptional, patient-focused care to the DeBary, Deltona, Orange City and Sanford communities. Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.