Published June 18, 2012
When 59-year-old Gerald Cunha was diagnosed with a 2 1/2-foot blood clot that stretched from his knee to his abdomen, doctors prepared him for the worst.
But thanks to a new clot-busting technology, Cunha survived and was able to tell his story to FoxNewsHealth.com.
Cunha’s ordeal began with what he thought was just sciatica causing pain in his legs.
“I started getting some swelling,” Cunha said. “[I] made an appointment with my primary, and the swelling got worse. So [I] went to the emergency room.”
“My leg had swollen up to about twice the size,” he added.”
Doctors found Cunha was suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body.
Dr. Warren Swee, an interventional radiologist at South Florida Vascular Associates, discovered Cunha's DVT stretched all the way up his leg to his pelvis.
“When people develop a DVT and experience pain and swelling of the knee or leg, they often think they might have a pulled muscle from exercising too much or from wearing the wrong shoes,” said Swee. “This misconception prevents people from seeking medical attention immediately, which is key.”
In Cunha's case, he had been suffering from pain and swelling for about 10 days before going to the emergency room.
Cunha also had many classic risk factors for DVT; he was overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle and was a smoker.
“He was referred to our office because he had a poor response to the primary therapy for a DVT – blood thinner,” Swee said. “Blood thinners alone will allow you to prevent the clot from breaking off and going to the lungs – which can be life-threatening and is called a pulmonary embolism.”
But for Cunha, blood thinners didn't cut it, and Swee soon found he would need to be creative in his approach to treatment.
“We decided to use a secondary form of therapy which incorporated clot busters and not just blood thinners,” Swee said. “We put him on his stomach and prepped his leg. Through a small hole we inserted a catheter directly into the clot, which drips clot busting medication right into the clot and melts it away.”
Using a new device called the EKOS Ultrasound Catheter, Cuhna’s health improved quickly.
“It incorporates ultrasound energy through a wire in the middle of the catheter. It causes a vibration that allows the clot busting medication to be better absorbed into the clot,” Swee said. “And the final result is a better clearance of clot in general and it's a safer and quicker procedure.”
After the procedure, it didn’t take long for Cuhna to get back on his feet.
“I feel great,” Cuhna said. “I [now] watch what I do. I feel lucky, very lucky.”
For more information, log onto EKOSCorp.com.