Removing Lung Clots

Doctors say nearly 600,000 lung clots are diagnosed each year in patients. The symptoms include shortness of breath and leg swelling. Many patients go untreated, but a new procedure can help turn their lives around.

Jack is 49. His sunken cheeks and dark eyes are a result of his 20-year struggle with lung problems. “It just got harder and harder and harder to breathe,” says Jack.

Dozens of doctors told him it was pneumonia. Finally, one physician determined Jack had lung clots. Blood clots break off from the leg and travel to the lungs. If large enough, they can disturb blood circulation.

Doctor saw Jack when his condition was at its worst. “His legs were tremendously swollen, at least 12 to 15 inches in diameter below the knee,” says Dr. Mulligan.

Blood thinners did not dissolve the clots. So Dr. Mulligan used a procedure called a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy, or PTE. He used a tiny device to remove the clots.

“The tip is fine enough so that you can see those small little vessels and dissect them clean,” says Dr. Mulligan.

Eight weeks after surgery, he’s up and around – without oxygen. “I feel so damn good. It sometimes just brings tears to my eyes,” says Jack.

Dr. Mulligan says, “It’s a tremendously underdiagnosed and definitely an undertreated problem.” Patients often live with symptoms like shortness of breath, leg swelling and fatigue for years.

“I hope that by doing these interviews and trying to reach out a little bit that we can trigger a diagnosis for somebody,” says Dr. Mulligan.

And with treatment, he says Jack can soon regain an active lifestyle.

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