Blood clots, always a danger particularly for those who have been hospitalized or inactive, have been increasing in size and number during the pandemic.
“We seeing blood clot complications related to the pandemic with both patients who have had COVID and those who haven’t,” says Dr. Mihas Kodenchery, a Methodist Physician Group cardiologist.
“COVID clots for people who haven’t had the disease happen because they were staying inside. We weren’t getting out much, and most people weren’t very active.”
Kodenchery also says clots are getting larger.
“Before the pandemic, our patients had smaller clots,” he says. “Now the clots in the legs are so big that people can lose their legs, or the big clots can go to the lungs and cause death.”
Treatments include blood thinners such as heparin or warfarin. But larger clots require stronger thinners called thrombolytics, which carry the risk of serious or fatal bleeding. And there are surgical methods to treat clots.
Methodist Hospitals, however, has quicker and less invasive treatments through the Inari Medical’s FlowTriever for Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and ClotTriever System for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Each is a non-surgical option that greatly reduces the risk of bleeding and can shorten a patient's hospital stay.
Before introducing these new devices about five months ago, patients with large blockages or clots may have had to miss work for one to two months while the blood thinners worked, says Kodenchery.
“Now most of my patients can go back to work in about a week, depending upon how sick they are,” he says. FlowTriever is the first Food and Drug Administration approved mechanical thrombectomy device designed to treat a pulmonary embolism, a clot in a pulmonary artery leading to the lungs. If the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs it can cause death in almost one-third of all patients.
“At Methodist Hospitals, we are committed to investing in cutting-edge technology to support our physicians and surgeons in their efforts to bring our patients the very best care,” says Matt Doyle, Methodist Hospitals president and CEO. “So we are pleased to be able to offer these clot removal devices that have been real game-changers for our cardiologists,"
Using FlowTriever and ClotTriever, for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis, doctors can quickly intervene when patients are at risk. Both devices can treat a patient with one use.
In a national review of the FlowTriever led by Dr. Catalin Toma, MD, director of interventional cardiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, early results showed that the device worked with few major side effects and almost immediate improvement in the 230 patients tested.
Kodenchery says the devices thread a catheter through a vein to the site of the clot. Suction is then used to pull the clot out of the vessel and from the body. Overall, it helps patients avoid open-chest surgery, drugs that might increase bleeding risk and intensive care stays.
Symptoms of blood clots including swelling and redness, particularly if it's just on one side; sharpness in the lungs; and painful breathing. If you experience any of those symptoms, Kodenchery says to go to the emergency room immediately.
“People don’t want to come to the hospital,” he says. “But every moment you wait, damage is being done. Some people believe that the hospital is filled with COVID, and they stay away. But in the hospital, we know who has COVID and plan for that.”
Kodenchery adds that one of the most effective treatments for blood clots is preventing them.
"Don’t wait to exercise," he said. "Start doing it now.”