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Cure for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

New Technique Dissolves Blood Clots in Leg, Relieves Symptoms

Dissolving DVT Clots: Lots of Doctor/Patient Time, Patience continued...

Was it worth it?

"It was not very fun, but I would do it again in a heartbeat because it saved my leg," McDonald says.

The new treatment has huge advantages over another new treatment. Interventional radiologists already are using a mechanical suction device to vacuum away blood clots loosened by infusion of clot-dissolving drugs.

"The advantage of the mechanical device is it is quick," Chang says. "If the clot is fresh and soft, you can establish a channel in half an hour. But the problem is that DVT often involves the small veins of the calf, and these devices are not easy to move into calf veins. Whereas you can get enzymes into the calf with a catheter."

"Improving the Chang technique is the future, because sucking the clot out doesn't do it," Guerra says. "He has an 80% of patients with complete resolution of blood flow and resolution of symptoms. He said no patient had recurrent DVT -- that is a significant statistic, because the occurrence of new DVT three to five years later is not small."

Chang stresses that the technique is not ready for prime time. It still must be proved in clinical trials that the technique is safe and effective for the kinds of DVT patients doctors regularly see. But Guerra says the Chang results already pose a dilemma to interventional radiologists who may already be pressed for time.

"This procedure is very labor intensive and needs a very expert professional," he says. "But if a person has significant calf and thigh thrombosis, and is willing to undergo two days of tedious catheterization, we should be able to offer it. Interventional radiologists will be hard pressed not to give patients the chance and step up to the plate and take the time to do the job. I would hate to turn an appropriate patient down."

Chang and colleagues report their findings in the February issue of the journal Radiology.

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