Normally, when you suffer from a pulmonary embolism— which is a blood clot blocking the flow to your lungs or heart—you have two choices; you either die, or undergo chest-cracking open-heart surgery. But because advances in science and technology are super awesome, a new and ingenious blood filter system is allowing doctors to save lives without ripping open sternums or the long weeks of recovery. The AngioVac system from Angio Dynamics, essentially sucks (tee-hee) out your blood, filters out the clots, and pumps the Brita’d (no, not that Britta) cleansed blood back into your body, negating any need for a transfusion.
The AngioVac consists of a Angio Dynamics-designed cannula and circuit, with third-party pump and filter components. The cannula acts as the outgoing pipe, and is inserted into the carotid artery, then threaded through the vascular system into position at one side of the clot. On the other end of the cannula, a powerful fluid pump is attached via an inline filter. Once the pump is switched on, it sucks the patient’s blood through the cannula, followed by the filer, through the Angiovac circuit that is inserted into the femoral artery, and finally back into the patient’s body, bypassing the circulatory system.
One of at least two people who have been saved by the procedure, Todd Dunlap, a 62-year-old Southern California resident, was the first person in the state to successfully undergo the procedure on August 8th when a medical team from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, headed by Dr. Murray Kwon, sucked out a 24-inch clot that stretched from his legs into his heart (Editorial note: Wowwwwwwwwww). What’s also impressive is that Dunlap was out of ICU within three days and discharged completely within that same week, because if he underwent the commonplace open heart surgery (cracked chest included), he would have been under the knife for six hours, followed by weeks in the hospital (barring any secondary infections), and months of recovery.