Saving Life and Limb

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Quick Intervention at Fort Sanders Regional Removes Local Man’s Life-Threatening Blood Clots

Just after Thanksgiving weekend 2023, South Knoxville native Mike Campbell felt sudden numbness and pain in his right foot. His wife, Amy, recalls watching Mike’s foot grow visibly worse over the weekend. She says, “His foot was gray and cold, and he was in pain. A possible blood clot did cross my mind, so we called our primary care doctor and got an appointment.”

Mike and Amy visited Kenneth Reese, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Knoxville. Dr. Reese ordered ultrasounds and made Mike an appointment with a vascular surgeon for consultation. The couple went to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in downtown Knoxville for the ultrasounds and were told to head straight to the emergency room to wait for the results.

The Danger of Blood Clots

It was more serious than they originally thought – the ultrasounds revealed multiple blood clots in Mike’s right leg. The blockages were preventing blood flow to the leg and foot. Maksim Gusev, MD, vascular surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional, immediately performed emergency surgery to prevent the blood clots from moving to his brain or heart and to establish blood flow to the right foot.

Dr. Gusev says, “Mr. Campbell presented with excruciating pain and motor weakness in his right foot, which had mild sensory weakness and no pulse. His left foot and the rest of his vasculature was normal.” Because Mike is a smoker, he is predisposed to forming blood clots, which in his case occurred behind the knee. Dr. Gusev explains that the clots were blocking blood flow to the lower extremity and his right foot, causing numbness, pain and a gray color.

Maskim Gusev MD
Maksim Gusev, MD, vascular surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center

“The patient had profound neuro motor deficits, meaning the nerves and muscles were affected by the lack of oxygen. I performed an emergent revascularization to reestablish blood flow to his foot.” Dr. Gusev used an endovascular approach, which means he accessed the clots from within the blood vessels. The surgery allowed Dr. Gusev to remove the clots and clear out Mike’s arteries, opening up the narrowed areas to reestablish blood flow.

Minimally Invasive Surgery Helps Patient Avoid Amputation

“The nurse called me every hour with an update,” says Amy. “Finally, after the surgery was done, Dr. Gusev called me himself to give me the report that everything went well, but my husband needed to stay overnight for observation and healing.”

Mike spent one night in the intensive care unit at Fort Sanders Regional for observation. Dr. Gusev confirms immediate surgical intervention saved Mike’s foot from being amputated.

“My husband is a mechanic and works 10 to 12-hour days,” Amy says. “An amputation would have taken him out of work.”

“At Fort Sanders Regional, we have cutting-edge technology that is always changing and allowing us to treat the patient with minimally invasive intervention. This reduces complications and shortens recovery time and reduces pain during recovery,” says Dr. Gusev.

Dr. Gusev made an incision for one needle access point in the groin and then two incisions in the calf muscle to “let it breathe.” The two skin fascia incisions along Mike’s calf allowed for temporary swelling after injury. Dr. Gusev says, “The muscles in his foot were starved of oxygen for several days. When fresh blood and oxygen flood back in, the area swells up. We had to make room for this temporary swelling or else the nerves can suffocate and die afterward.”

The Campbells are from Florida and are fans of the University of Florida and its mascot, the Gator. Mike has a gator tattoo on his leg, right in the place where the incisions were made. Dr. Gusev ended up having to make an incision between the gator’s eyes and teeth, and later told his patient, “I did my best to keep the head intact, but your alligator now has crooked teeth!”

Mike was discharged to go home and instructed to rest for several days before returning to work. He had two follow-up appointments and is feeling great.

An Important First Step for Preventing Blood Clots

Dr. Gusev’s advice for preventing blood clots in adults? Quit smoking. He says, “People who smoke are predisposed to forming these clots, so my first recommendation is smoking cessation. If you cannot quit, then reducing tobacco use is advised. It’s also important to have frequent checkups and to know what to do if symptoms of blood vessel abnormality arise, like not being able to find your pulse in your foot.”

The Campbells are so thankful for the expert care they received at the hospital and would recommend it to any of their friends. “Dr. Gusev was amazing,” Amy says. “He was on top of things He has a great bedside manner and was very knowledgeable about everything that was happening. He saved Mike’s foot.” For more information about surgical services at Fort Sanders Regional, visit our surgery web page.

In addition to blood clots, individuals who smoke are at higher risk for lung cancer. Fort Sanders Regional and other Covenant Health facilities offer low-dose CT scans to help screen for lung cancer in long-time smokers and those who have been exposed to other carcinogenic substances. Our unique lung nodule program is the first in East Tennessee to use robotic-assisted bronchoscopy technology to determine whether a lung mass or lung nodule is cancerous. Learn more about the comprehensive services offered at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

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Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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