Man survives 60cm blood clot; doctors 'vacuum' it out of his heart

©UCLA: The blood clot captured by the AngioVac surgery

A new device for heart surgery has saved the life of a Californian man whose 60cm blood clot stretched from his leg to his heart

Doctors from UCLA performed the life-saving procedure on 62-year-old father, Todd Dunlap, using a device called the AngioVac, which is designed for one-time use.

A team of specialist doctors and surgeons monitored Dunlap's by sliding a tiny camera down Dunlap's esophagus. They then guided a coiled hose through his neck artery and plugged one end into his heart, against the clot. They threaded the other end through a vein at the groin and hooked the hose up to a powerful heart-bypass device in the operating room to create suction.

The way the AngioVac works is that it simultaneously blocks blood clots from breaking off and lodging in the lungs before vacuuming it out and filtering solid tissue from blood vessels. But even more impressively, it also saves the patient from a blood transfusion.

"Once in place, the AngioVac quickly sucked the deadly clot out of Mr. Dunlap's heart and filtered out the solid tissue," said Moriarty, a UCLA interventional radiologist with expertise in clot removal and cardiovascular imaging. "The system then restored the cleansed blood through a blood vessel near the groin, eliminating the need for a blood transfusion."

When a CT scan revealed the huge clot stretching from his legs into his heart, Dr. John Moriarty gave Mr Dunlap patient a choice: open-heart surgery or this new minimally invasive procedure which had never been successfully performed in California.

"The clot clogged his heart chamber like a wad of gum in a pipe."

The new grandfather and father of two chose the later and was discharged from hospital only one week after the three-hour operation. By contrast, open heart surgery takes twice as long to perform and patients can expect to be in recovery or rehabilitation for much longer as their chests heal.

"I'm thrilled that I didn't have to go through open-heart surgery," said Dunlap. "This procedure is a great option for the older, frail person who wouldn't survive open-heart surgery. Without an alternative like this, he's a goner."

Dr Moriarty described the new procedure as a 'last resort' but said they could not have asked for a better outcome. "The clot clogged his heart chamber like a wad of gum in a pipe. Every moment that passed increased the risk that the clot would migrate to his lungs and kill him."

Previous use of a clot-busting drug had failed due to the clot's large size and density.

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