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Pulmonary Embolism

New, Safer, Life-Saving Treatment

“Dr. Bock was calming, compassionate, and thorough in explaining my diagnosis and treatment options. It is evident he truly cares about his patients and their well-being.” ;– Tierney Schmidt, EKOS Patient

Tierney Schmidt, 35, from New Berlin, Wisconsin, didn’t make it out of Reagan National Airport on her own. Coming off the plane with acute shortness of breath and numbness in her legs, she was transported to Virginia Hospital Center by ambulance and rushed into the Emergency Department. Her condition was a life-threatening, massive pulmonary embolism—two large blood clots on both sides of her pulmonary artery in her lungs.

A pulmonary embolism is the result of a blood clot that usually originates in the veins of the leg. If it breaks off and travels to the lungs, it can become lodged in the blood supply, obstructing blood flow through the heart. The clot prevents blood from getting to the lungs to be oxygenated, putting a tremendous strain on the right side of the heart. A massive pulmonary embolism similar to Tierney’s case has more than a 50% mortality rate within three months—higher than the rate for a heart attack.

“Pulmonary embolism is a common and often unrecognized emergency condition,” says John Golden, MD, FACC, interventional cardiologist and Chief of Cardiology, Kaiser Permanente. “A lot of the time it goes undiagnosed. It is not something that would be identified on most standard emergency room testing. But, someone who has been sitting on a flight for a long period of time is clearly at risk.”

Fortunately for Tierney, Virginia Hospital Center has an advanced, minimally invasive treatment for pulmonary embolism—the EkoSonic™ Endovascular System (EKOS). “Using EKOS, we guide catheters toward the right side of the heart and into the pulmonary artery. The ultrasound device loosens the bonds of the clot and allows the thrombolytic (clot-busting) medications to penetrate and dissolve the obstruction more effectively,” says interventional cardiologist Jeremy Bock, MD, FACC of Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group – Cardiology.

“Because of how the thrombolytic medication is delivered to the clot, we are able to use a much smaller dose—about one-fourth of what we would have to use if this medication were given systemically,” explains R. Preston Perrin, MD, FACC, FSCAI of Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group – Cardiology. “Thrombolytics increase the risk of serious complications, such as brain hemorrhage or internal bleeding. EKOS allows us to give this medication in a lower dose that is more effective, with less risk to the patient.”

Tierney recalls when she first met Dr. Bock after being admitted to the Hospital. “Dr. Bock was calming, compassionate, and thorough in explaining my diagnosis and treatment options. It is evident he truly cares about his patients and their well-being.” She says, “Dr. Bock recommended EKOS due to the large size of the clots in both my lungs and the potential for long-term complications.”

Virginia Hospital Center has been using EKOS since early 2016. “This is an excellent treatment option for patients with a large pulmonary embolism. Our patients are recovering faster, spending significantly less time in the Hospital, and feeling better once they go home,” says Dr. Bock.

That was the case for Tierney. The morning after her EKOS procedure, she felt significantly better. Three days later, she was discharged from Virginia Hospital Center and flew home to Wisconsin a day after that.

“Fate put me here,” says Tierney, a full-time software implementation manager who travels extensively, and works part-time as a nurse in a neuro ICU unit. “EKOS is not a procedure offered by my primary hospital. Northern Virginia residents are fortunate to have access to a hospital that offers such advanced treatment.”

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