The results of the thrombectomy were immediate. Holderman was taken off supplemental oxygen after the procedure, and her heart rate returned to normal. A test the following day showed her right ventricle was back to its normal size and function.
“The right ventricle went from failure mode to functioning totally well again,” Dr. Patel says. “How long and how well we live, a lot of that depends on heart health. We were able to preserve Mary’s heart function and that’s what makes me happy.”
The heart and lungs work together, depend on each other, and are amazingly efficient. It takes about 16 seconds for blood to travel through the body, allowing about five quarts of blood to circulate each minute.
Catheter-guided thrombectomies are a relatively recent advance, Dr. Patel says. “Medical science in this field has come a long way. Less than 10 years ago, we didn’t have some of these technologies. Patients we’re able to save today may not have survived before,” Dr. Patel says. “Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute uses these life-saving technologies and also is involved in important cardiovascular research.”
Dr. Patel says Holderman will need blood thinning medication going forward to help prevent the formation of new clots. Blood thinners don’t dissolve existing clots, he says. “That’s why it makes sense to remove the clots,” Dr. Patel says.
Dr. Patel says a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can be used to dissolve blood clots in cases of pulmonary embolism or stroke but noted the “potent blood thinner” has a risk of causing brain bleeding. For that reason, he says, it is used for extremely critical patients who are at risk of immediate death. Holderman wasn’t in that category and was stable enough for the thrombectomy.
Holderman says Patel, despite being very busy, took time to talk to her family and fully explained the procedure. “He’s a remarkable man,” she says.
She says she’s feeling good. The successful procedure gave her a second chance. “You appreciate every day. I feel blessed. I would recommend the procedure for anybody.”