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Heart Disease Health Center

Tiny Vacuum Sucks Clots From Heart

New Heart Attack Treatment Vacuums Blood Clots From Blocked Arteries
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Thrombus Aspiration: Treatment Wave of the Future continued...

This isn't a giant breakthrough, but it could represent a significant improvement in the treatment of heart attack, says George W. Vetrovec MD, chairman of the division of cardiology and director of the adult cardiac catheterization laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. Vetrovec's editorial accompanies the Zijlstra team's report in the Feb. 7 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"What you are really trying to do here is to limit damage to the heart muscle by preventing clots from blocking the small vessels beyond the major obstruction," Vetrovec tells WebMD. "Every bit of heart muscle you save will help -- and in the heart attack setting, that is very important. You just reduce the amount of debris going downstream and therefore have better outcomes."

Zijlstra says that the technique is not hard for doctors to learn. He expects it to become a routine part of medical practice -- although Vetrovec says it remains to be seen whether doctors will be able to perform the procedure on a routine basis. It appears to be cost effective. And one-year follow-up data on the patients in the study suggest a promising trend toward better outcomes.

"Thrombus aspiration will be here to stay," Zijlstra says. "It will be very important for all patients with acute heart attacks. We are now trying to see if other categories of patients will benefit, such as those with unstable angina and other forms of coronary artery disease in which we know blood clots play a role."

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