The Challenge: Severe Leg Pain and Swelling
Michelle Betts was a healthy, active 27-year-old expecting her second child when she began having severe leg pain. Her doctor diagnosed deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
DVT is a type of blood clot that often happens in the large veins of the legs. It sometimes has a link to pregnancy.
After Michelle gave birth, her doctor prescribed a blood thinner. But he told her there wasn’t more he could do to treat her pain and other symptoms. She also had swelling in her leg and varicose veins in her belly.
Over the next 19 years, Michelle altered her routine to deal with the pain, swelling, and dead-weight feeling in her leg. She stopped mountain biking and needed a special chair to sit in at choir practice. She even found it hard to stand for long periods of time.
Then, while researching her symptoms online, Michelle came across a story about a woman with similar symptoms who had successful treatment.
Michelle went to her doctor and asked for help in finding a vascular surgeon who specialized in DVT.
The Path to DVT Treatment at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Michelle’s search lead her to Rabih Chaer, MD, chief of vascular surgery at UPMC Presbyterian and an expert in DVT treatment. She traveled to Pittsburgh to meet him. Right away, she felt like she was in the right place.
During Michelle's first visit, Dr. Chaer’s knowledge and compassionate manner impressed Michelle.
After a thorough exam and imaging tests, Dr. Chaer confirmed her diagnosis of chronic DVT. He said it was likely due to a rare disease called May-Thurner syndrome.
May-Thurner happens when a nearby artery compresses the left iliac vein, which brings blood from the pelvis back to the heart.
This compression limits blood flow, leading to narrowing and scarring in the vein. It can also cause symptoms like pain, swelling, and blood clots.
The Solution: A Venous Stent
Dr. Chaer suggested treatment using a stent — a small tube of metal mesh — to widen her vein and restore healthy blood flow.
He talked with Michelle about a clinical trial he’s leading at UPMC to test a new stent designed specifically for vein use. She agreed to enroll.
On July 1, 2016, Michelle had the stenting treatment with Dr. Chaer and his team.
During the procedure, Dr. Chaer made a puncture in Michelle’s leg. He then used a thin, flexible tube — called a catheter — to place the stent in her vein.
Michelle’s symptoms improved almost right away. Just four months later, she ran a 5K race.
“I feel great,” Michelle said. “As normal as I’ll ever be, thanks to Dr. Chaer and his amazing team.”
Michelle takes a daily baby aspirin and will have follow-up visits for the next few years as part of the clinical trial. She's thankful for the care she received from Dr. Chaer and his team.
Michelle's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.
Learn More About DVT and Mayer-Thurner Syndrome
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