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Severe Blood Clots Should be Treated Aggressively: Heart Docs
Date:3/21/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- The American Heart Association is urging doctors to treat the worst cases of potentially life-threatening blood clots that form in the legs' deep veins more aggressively.

These clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

Each year in the United States more than 250,000 people are hospitalized for deep vein thrombosis, whose symptoms include sudden swelling and unusual pain, tenderness and warmth in a leg. Until now, there has been little guidance on how best to treat the most serious cases of the emergency condition, according to the heart association.

For patients, the new guidelines should make a difference in outcomes, said co-author Dr. M. Sean McMurtry, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. "Ideally, it will lead to better care," he said. "While most patients don't die from pulmonary embolism, when you start talking massive pulmonary embolism, it can have a significant mortality rate."

"It would be ideal if we could help practitioners identify people whose lives could be saved by these more aggressive interventions," McMurtry said.

Noting that many patients with the most severe blood clots and related complications need more than blood thinners, the heart association is recommending aggressive treatment with clot-busting drugs. In addition, the group recommends inserting catheters in blood vessels to open them up.

For certain patients, the heart association also recommends surgery to remove clots and the insertion of filters in the vein to prevent new clots from traveling to the lungs.

Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association and chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that "there are still more people out there with de
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