Health Beat: Killer clots: Vacuum them up

Health Beat: Killer clots: Vacuum them up

LOS ANGELES - About one in 500 Americans suffers from deep vein thrombosis, a condition where blood clots form in the veins of the leg. Nearly 100,000 die each year when a clot breaks away and travels to the lungs or heart. Now, there's a new way to vacuum up these dangerous clots.

For years, Todd Dunlap was an avid skier, hiker and volleyball player.

"I've always been an athlete," Dunlap said.

Dunlap, however, had to give up his active lifestyle when doctors found a massive, two-foot long blood clot growing in his body.

"The blood clot went from below my groin to the top of my heart," Dunlap said.

If a piece broke loose, it could travel to Dunlap's lungs and kill him instantly. The standard fix was major surgery where doctors open the chest, stop the heart and remove the clot.

Instead, Dr. John Moriarty, a UCLA interventional radiologist, offered Dunlap a new procedure called AngioVac.

"What it is is a fancy vacuum cleaner," said Moriarty, assistant professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Doctors placed a tube down Dunlap's neck artery and plugged one end to his heart. Another tube was placed into his groin and attached to a machine.

The device sucked out the clot and then restored clean blood. Dunlap said he hopes to get back to his favorite activities soon, but his most important goal involves a 10-month-old little boy.

"The skiing and volleyball is great, but playing with your grandson is right on top," Dunlap said.

The AngioVac device could be used on other types of clots in different areas of the body. Just like any procedure, there are risks, which include bleeding, blood vessel damage and the chance that a clot could break off and travel to the lungs.

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DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. John Moriarty about a new way to vacuum up dangerous blood clots

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