Lawrence General in Front on Treatment of a Deadly Condition
July 10, 2015 - A 61 year old woman arrives in the Lawrence General Emergency Center with severe shortness of breath and discomfort in her chest. She has a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The fact that she has recently had a hip replacement is a red flag for her care providers, since surgeries like this predispose patients to developing a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot that has traveled from the surgical site to the lungs. For as many as half of patients who develop a significant pulmonary embolism, the condition is fatal.
Fortunately for this patient, Lawrence General has a Pulmonary Embolism Response Team. The woman was taken urgently to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where the cardiologist threads a special ultrasound device from her femoral vein up to the lung. The procedure delivers a low dose of clot busting medicine directly to the site of the embolism and applies ultrasound to help the medicine penetrate the clot. Within hours, the patient’s symptoms have subsided, in 24 hours the amount of clot is dramatically reduced and within a couple of days she is home again.
Many larger centers are just launching pulmonary embolism response programs like this one, but Lawrence General’s team has been in place for more than a year. To date they have responded 15 times, with excellent outcomes. “We have an excellent team,” comments Dr. Seth Bilazarian, cardiologist and cath lab director, “and because we are relatively small, we have the ability to be nimble, to implement beneficial new programming quickly and offer some game-changing treatments before they are widely available at larger centers.”