Pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in lungs) and other cardiovascular blockages, if untreated, can cause lung tissue damage or death due to decreased or altogether stoppage of blood flow to vital organs, respectively. Depending on the size and the specific location of the clot, it may resolve on its own or require aggressive treatment, including open-heart surgery that can potentially last up to six hours, with at least a two-week stay in the hospital (discounting secondary infections) and months of recovery time.
The AngioVac system, developed by Angio Dynamics, a New York-based medical equipment company, is essentially a marriage between a vacuum and a dialysis machine which sucks out a patient’s blood, filters it for clots, and pumps the blood back to the body sans clots. The AngioVac equipment can effectively reduce the time spent in the OR and hospital length of stay by half, while also diminishing the need for blood transfusions due to blood loss should open-heart surgery be performed.
The AngioVac system, which functions as an extracorporeal bypass, consists of a cannula (thin tube) and a circuit. With the aid of a camera, one end of the cannula is inserted into the carotid artery and weaved through the vascular system and situated next to the clot, while the other end of the cannula is attached to a fluid pump that’s connected to an inline filter and the circuit that’s placed in the femoral artery.
When the pump is turned on, blood from the carotid artery is sucked through the tube and into the filter and back into the patient’s body via the femoral artery, safely dislodging the clot by circumventing the circulatory system without aggressive surgery.
The AngioVac system has so far been utilized in two surgical cases (one in California and one in Michigan) to great effect, with hopes its use becomes more prevalent in the near future for complicated pulmonary embolism cases.