The sudden and hidden dangers of a blood clot

5:20 PM, Jul 28, 2010   |    comments
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"My arm kind of turned purple, got really veiny and swelled up and it was tingling. I knew something was wrong," Harrison said.

After a trip to the emergency room, the swelling went down and he went back to classes to prepare for finals at the University of Oklahoma.

When he came home for summer break he went to his doctor, who ran several tests and discovered a 4-inch blood clot in his subclavian vein and diagnosed him with thoracic outlet syndrome.

This condition involves a compression of blood vessels and nerves. These vessels and nerves pass through a narrow space near the shoulder and armpit on their way to the arms. As they pass by or through the collarbone (clavicle) and upper ribs, they may not have enough space. Pressure (compression) on these blood vessels or nerves can cause symptoms in the arms or hands. Problems with the nerves account for almost all cases of thoracic outlet syndrome.

The cardiologist treating Harrison in Tulsa suggested he come to Denver's Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital where a team of surgeons from the Vascular Institute of the Rockies specialize in treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome. In a couple of procedures, the surgeons removed the blood clot from Harrison's vein and they removed the rib that is just below his neck, in order to prevent this from happening again.

Just before Harrison noticed his symptoms, he was finding great success with the P90X workout. This popular program provides a series of workouts as part of a 90-day plan to transform the body.

"I guess I got too big and too buff too quick or something like that and it developed the muscle around my shoulders and that realized emphasized my thoracic outlet syndrome," he said.

Personal trainer Chad Shinabery likes the workout because it uses what is known as "muscular confusion" to constantly challenge the body. He says it is very rewarding to see someone make significant changes to their body.

However, he added, "To see an arm and then a bicep and a tricep, but you have to listen to your body and sometimes when these people are working out they think soreness is actually good. It should go away over a period of time. If it stays there, if you start seeing thing that don't look right, talk to somebody."

Dr. Steve Annest is a vascular surgeon. He says the most common symptoms linked to TOS include aching pain, heaviness, numbness, and a burning pain down the arm. He does not blame Harrison's workout for causing his condition.

"My partner does the P90X and it's a great, great activity. This could have happened climbing, it could have happened at the gym. I don't suggest people don't exercise, just listen to your body and if problem occurs, address it," Annest said.

Tom Harrison is Jeffrey's father. He says he was relieved to learn the doctors at Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital were considered the "rock stars" for the treatment of TOS.

He teased with his son that he's not buff and he's the one who's not the patient.

Jeffrey Harrison is expected to make a full recovery and plans to return to his workout, something he knows will probably concern his parents. They say it is OK as long as he remembers moderation in everything, including his workouts.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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