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posted: 10/1/2013 11:59 AM

Symptoms of blood clots often overlooked

600,000 Americans suffer from a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism each year, and more than 100,000 will die annually as a result

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Submitted by Alexian Brothers Health System

56 year-old Algonquin resident Tom Prezen runs his own construction company and lives his life on the go. In February of 2012, Tom noticed a rash on his forearm which persisted for several days. Following a recommendation from friends, Tom went to the emergency room at a suburban hospital where it was discovered that the rash was caused by a blood clot in his upper left extremities. He was admitted to the hospital and underwent preliminary treatment. Tom followed up with his primary care physician, who referred him immediately to Dr. Andrei Pop, a cardiovascular surgeon with Alexian Brothers Health System for further treatment.

After an examination, Dr. Pop immediately diagnosed the condition. Tom was suffering from DVT, or deep vein thrombosis. DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein predominantly in the legs or arms; a clot inside a blood vessel is called a thrombosis. Nonspecific signs may include swelling, redness, warmness, and engorged superficial veins. Left undiagnosed, DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening complication caused by the detachment (embolization) of a thrombosis that travels to the lungs.

Dr, Pop implemented a series of clot busting drugs to get Tom's vein to open. The process took a full day, but Dr. Pop was able to open the vein causing Tom's problem and effectively dissolve the clot.

"With deep vein thrombosis, the longer you wait the more difficult it is to dissolve a clot," said Dr. Pop. "There's a tremendous amount of complexity and variability in the cardiovascular system. Finding where the clot is sometimes is half the battle."

According to Dr. Pop, Tom's case is typical. With DVT, the symptoms are not the intense pain often associated with a cardiovascular disorder. In Tom's case it was a simple rash. Often these symptoms (swelling, redness, warmness) are foolishly ignored because they mimic so many other conditions.

"This DVT procedure is one we do quite often; very few others do as many as we do here," said Pop. "This is a specialized procedure, where the more you do the better you are at it."

Tom was able to return home the very next day, with no symptoms and free of any blood clot. "They were very transparent and explained everything happening to me," said Prezen. "No questions were left unanswered. I just couldn't be more pleased. I wouldn't go anywhere else."

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