New response team at Saint Agnes saves lives with minimally invasive procedure

Amanda Aguilar Image
Saturday, March 25, 2023
New response team at Saint Agnes saves lives with minimally invasive procedure
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Saint Agnes' new Pulmonary Embolism Response Team is saving lives with a minimally invasive procedure.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Pulmonary embolism is one of the most common heart and blood conditions in the world, according to health experts.

It's often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms look like other medical conditions.

In November of last year, Clifford Drum was having shortness of breath and felt dizzy. He knew something was wrong.

"Ambulance came in. The fire department came through. They thought because of the pressure on the heart attack," Clifford Drum said. "The EMT, she says 'I don't think so. I think you've probably got a blood clot.'"

An MRI showed he had a blood clot in his lungs, and Clifford was immediately seen by Saint Agnes' new Pulmonary Embolism Response Team, or PERT.

It's the first one in the Central Valley.

"Mainly comprises of the intensivist group here at St. Agnes and our interventional radiology colleagues," Saint Agnes Intensivist Dr. Pankaj Bharati said. "What we do is when a patient with PE is diagnosed, we will go assess the patient together and right away have a plan as to what type of intervention or treatment the patient is candidate for."

For Clifford, it was a thrombectomy.

"This is one of our thrombectomy catheters, this is a sample," Interventional radiologist Dr. Stephen Balfour said. "This would come from the groin up through the heart into the lungs in order to extract the blood clot."

The device essentially pulled the blood clot from Clifford's lung.

Then three months later, Clifford's daughter-in-law also had to have the same procedure.

Video Teresa shared from inside the procedural room showed how it's done. Since it's a minimally invasive procedure, she was able to see the catheter move through her lungs and remove this clot.

Both Teresa and Clifford were sent home within 24 hours of the procedure.

"It's a slow healing process. I can't talk like I used to, and I get real tired really easily, but I'm here," Teresa Drum said.

Both of them are grateful to be alive, and they don't need to be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of their lives.

Doctors say they'd like the procedure and response team to become standard throughout the Valley.

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