Methodist in the Media

Balloon Procedure at Omaha Hospital Busts Lung Clots, Allowing Hiker to Hit Trails

Published: April 28, 2023

Kim Miller has been through a lot since she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer nearly 18 years ago.

Treatments have included surgery and radiation, all of which have come with side effects. About three years ago, she started oral chemotherapy.

But nothing slowed her down like the blood clots that were detected in all lobes of both lungs soon afterward. She had become really short of breath. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, helped, but she still had trouble breathing while walking and doing other normal activities.

A cardiologist at the Nebraska Medical Center did a series of tests that found Miller, 47, had residual clots and scarring, resulting in a condition called chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, or CTEPH, for short. In it, clots and scarring obstruct the flow of blood through the lungs and result in elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, which can lead to right-sided heart failure.

So the cardiologist sent her to Dr. Karen Deffenbacher, an interventional cardiologist who joined Nebraska Medicine last summer. Deffenbacher had trained in a procedure called pulmonary balloon angioplasty. It’s similar to the balloon procedure used to open clogged heart arteries and involves the same wires and balloons.

Deffenbacher said the procedure is one of the new pieces of Nebraska Medicine’s Pulmonary Embolism Response Team, or PERT, program, which launched in February. The multidisciplinary teams, which include a variety of specialists, are being formed in a growing number of hospitals nationwide to rapidly diagnose and treat patients with lung clots, or pulmonary embolisms, similar to the stroke teams in many hospitals.

Methodist Health System, which has had a PERT program since about 2015, is involved in an international trial comparing clot-busting drugs alone with a combination of drugs and ultrasound therapy, said Dr. Anjan Talukdar, a vascular surgeon with Methodist Physicians Clinic. The Methodist team also can perform pulmonary balloon angioplasty in patients with CTEPH.

Omaha World-Herald: Balloon Procedure at Omaha Hospital Busts Lung Clots, Allowing Hiker to Hit Trails