Pulmonary embolism is the third most common cause of death from cardiovascular disease, after heart attack and stroke. At Sacred Heart Hospital, doctors are using a new procedure to remove life-threatening clots from the lungs.
A device called the "FlowTriever" is inserted into a blood vessel in the lung to remove a clot called a pulmonary embolism. The technology is new.
Sacred Heart is one of 18 hospitals in the country taking part in clinical trials.
Dr. Rohit Amin said, "This is the only device for the treatment of pulmonary embolism that you can actually enter into the blood vessel, into the lungs, and actually pluck out the clot."
Dr. Amin is an interventional cardiologist who helped form Sacred Heart's "Pulmonary Embolism Response Team."
When Tony Ciotola came in for emergency treatment, they decided he was a good candidate for the new technique. He had developed shortness of breath that quickly became incapacitating.
Ciotola remembered, "The kicker was going up the steps, and I was on my hands and knees trying to catch my breath and I knew something was wrong."
Using a device to remove the clot isn't the standard treatment for pulmonary embolism, which has long been treated with blood thinning medications. But Dr. Amin said the technology has progressed and will only get better.
He explained, "We've seen results with patients where the clot has been removed with pictures that we have never seen ever before, with any other device."
He points out there's not a lot of awareness of pulmonary embolism, even within the medical community. If Ciotola had waited any longer to get his symptoms checked, he might not be standing now.
Ciotola said, "I firmly believe it after how I felt going up the steps the night before I went to the emergency room. I think that would have been...cancel Christmas time there."
Most often, pulmonary embolisms are caused by blood clots that travel from the legs. Symptoms include sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing and feeling faint.