Researchers compare strategies for treating blood clots

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PITTSBURGH —

A Carlow University student received a frightening lesson outside the classroom recently when her leg cramp turned into something much more serious.

"I tried to get up and go to the bathroom and I couldn't put any pressure on my leg it hurt so bad," said Emma McCormick. "I called my parents and said I'm in the worst pain of my life and I don't know what to do about it."

She ended up in the hospital with a condition she knew little about.

"I was terrified. My parents are two and a half hours away and I was alone," she said.

McCormick had a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. It's when a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins.

"Emma was given the traditional treatment and despite being on the blood thinners alone, her symptoms were not improving," Dr. Rabih Chaer of UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute said.

Luckily, Emma was a candidate for the nationwide ATTRACT study being conducted at UPMC.

Researchers want to compare two commonly used treatment strategies to determine which is best for blood clots.

Chaer then took an aggressive approach to dissolve the blood clot by using Pharmacomechanical Catheter-Directed Thrombolysis (PCDT).

"It's all essentially done through a needle stick through the skin, and that allows us access to the vein itself and once we get access into the vein with an IV or a catheter, then we can deliver the clot-busting medication inside the vein," he said.

Most patients are walking the following day and go home within a day or two on blood thinners.

McCormick is happy with her outcome.

"It's like an eraser on a pencil. That's pretty much the scar," she said. "It's going away."

Chaer said this study will help doctors identify those patients who would benefit the most from PCDT as opposed to giving them blood thinners alone.

To learn more about the study, click here.

To learn more about DVT and its symptoms, click here.