For many medical emergencies, a matter of minutes can make a difference in positive outcomes for patients.
A pulmonary embolism, described as a blood clot that clogs or blocks an artery leading to one of the lungs, can often be one such condition. But through teamwork, technology, and improved communication, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen clinical teams are working together to diagnose and treat patients with life-threatening pulmonary embolisms faster than ever before, said cardiologist Dr. Danielle Stone.
Stone is the driving force behind the creation of Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s pulmonary embolism response team. The team, which includes clinical staff ranging from the ER to imaging services, cardiologists, and staff in the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab, is designed to rapidly diagnose potential pulmonary embolism patients arriving in the ER and determine the best treatment.
“The pulmonary embolism response team was developed to treat patients that come into the ER suffering from a large clot in one of their lungs,” Stone said. “These patients can be incredibly unstable, since the clot can be putting a lot of stress on the right side of the heart.”
Once a pulmonary embolism is suspected, the response team is activated. It works through a set of protocols to provide the most comprehensive course of treatment for each patient.
Images of a patient’s chest are taken to reveal the location and size of the clot. In the coming months, artificial intelligence from Viz.Ai will be integrated to help assess the risk the embolism poses to the patient. Stone said that rapidly determining the severity of the clot helps plot the course of treatment for each patient. Treatments can vary from utilizing medication to break a clot up over time or using procedures coupled with precise imaging to remove the clot, called mechanical thrombectomy, physically.
“The results and the images will be sent directly to us via our cell phones so that we will be able to fully evaluate the size of the right side of the heart, the patient’s background, and the burden the clot is placing on the patient’s cardiovascular system,” Stone said. “With all the information available to us, we will be able to quickly decide if we can treat the patient with medication or if they require immediate mechanical thrombectomy.”
Stone said similar response protocols are in place at Valley Baptist-Harlingen to provide rapid care for other critical medical conditions, such as stroke.
“For example, when a code ‘stroke’ is called, it starts a process to expedite care for the patient, because time is critical,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to educate our teams and establish similar protocols to get these patients rapidly through the ER and on to the best treatment for their situation.”
Stone said that developments such as the formation of the pulmonary embolism response team are critical to addressing the health care needs of communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
“This is all about working together to address the needs and the health of our community,” she said. “At a hospital, you can have a lot of moving parts, and it’s important that we all work together to provide the highest quality care for our patients.”