Stepping Into a Healthier Life
Limb-Saving Vascular Surgery Also Changes Patient’s Outlook on Life
At 71, Patricia Weldon was going strong, enjoying retirement, her hobbies and socializing with friends. Until one day her right leg started to swell. Within a few days the leg was so puffy and the pain was so bad she could not even walk around her Geneva apartment. She knew something was wrong, but little did she suspect that she was at risk of life-threatening blood clots. Or that she would make history as the first patient in Ashtabula County to undergo a complex, high-tech vein surgery to prevent lifelong complications like the painful swelling she endured or chronic wounds that can lead to amputation.
Michael Brown, DO, Director of Vascular Surgery at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, performed a minimally invasive procedure on Weldon that opened blockage in both her legs. The problem was caused by blood clots and compression of the iliac vein, the main vein in the pelvis and legs, a condition called May Thurner syndrome. Untreated, it ultimately can lead to amputation of the affected leg when the tissue dies due to lack of blood flow.
Dr. Brown is the first surgeon to offer this procedure to patients in Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga counties. He has offices at UH Concord Health Center and UH Geneva and Geauga medical centers, and he performs the surgery in a specially equipped operating room at UH Geauga Medical Center.
“We begin by inserting an ultrasound probe into the vein to locate the blood clot in the pelvic and leg veins,” Dr. Brown explains. “This new technology allows me to accurately see where the narrowing and the clot are in the vein.”
When he has identified the location of the problem, Dr. Brown inserts a stent using a catheter, a long, thin tube that he threads into the vein. A stent is a tiny mesh device that supports and holds the vein open so blood can flow freely again. Dr. Brown uses a special type of X-ray to place the stents precisely inside the vein.
Weldon still marvels that Dr. Brown performed the surgery through half-inch incisions behind each of her knees. “I went home with just Band-aids over the incisions and walked into my apartment,” she recalls.
Looking back on her experience, Weldon says it changed her life in a positive way. “I’ve been given a second chance to make my life better,” she says. It motivated her to lose 27 pounds by eating healthy and to develop a more positive outlook on life. She has had no further problems with her legs, has kept her weight down and her attitude positive. Her only ongoing treatment is taking the blood thinner Coumadin, which she easily manages with regular check-ins at the UH Geneva Coumadin Clinic.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brown is committed to heightening awareness of May Thurner syndrome among patients, internal medicine physicians and wound care nurses.
“In the past, many patients with blood clots were sent home without a proper diagnosis or treatment, but now we have the technology to diagnose and treat these patients and save them from lifelong complications,” Dr. Brown notes.
He recommends that anyone with swelling of one leg that is getting worse and/or has recurring wounds on their leg that don’t heal should get screened for problems with the iliac vein. Interested patients should ask their primary care doctor for a referral if required by their insurance or contact Dr. Brown’s office directly at 440-285-6975 for an appointment.