John Transue IV, of Bensalem, Pennsylvania was two weeks from graduating college when he got what felt like a muscle cramp in his side.
"And then it spread, the cramp, and you could feel it in your legs, like a stiffness. And it hurt every time you moved...even the slightest bit," he said.
The college health center thought it might be a kidney stone and sent him to see a doctor. In severe pain, he went to the emergency room at Frankford Torresdale hospital. There, x-rays turned up a shocking problem.
"I had blood clots from my midsection all the way down my legs to my knees," he said.
Dr. Aaron Shiloh said Transue's condition was life threatening. Not only was there the risk of clots breaking off and going to the lungs, or brain, but the blood flow in John's lower body was virtually shut off.
"It's like a traffic jam. If you have one lane of a highway, like I-95, and you shut that thing down, you're going to have a massive traffic jam behind it," Dr. Shiloh said. Normally, patients with deep vein thrombosis, or DVTs, are given intravenous drips of blood thinners such as heparin. But Dr.Shiloh said that didn't work for John. So he used a clot-busting device called Trellis. It is a thin catheter that's threaded through a small incision, to the clot site.
Balloons are inflated on each end to isolate the clot. Then Trellis, which uses both a drug, and mechanical vibrating action, breaks up the clot.
"During the time when it's vibrating, we are injecting the clot-busting medication through multiple small holes within the catheter. They are spraying out into the clot. Once we are done, we basically deflate the balloon here, and using this, we suck out the clot," Dr. Shiloh explained.
Transue's clot was cleared section by section until it was gone.
After clots are removed, patients are put on smaller doses of blood thinners, to prevent clots from re-forming.
18 months after his crisis, Transue is off those, taking just two aspirin a day. He returned to college and got his degree in art and he came back to give Dr. Shiloh a painting he'd started sketching while in the hospital, to thank him and his team for saving his life.
Nearly two-dozen hospitals in our area have the Trellis, but it is not used in all cases. Still many doctors believe the device will become much more popular in the future. For more information about DVT, visit: www.mayoclinic.com