Pulmonary Embolism

New Vascular Surgery Chief Stays a Step Ahead

Dr. Kwame Amankwah

Dr. Kwame Amankwah may be new to UConn Health, but he has already made a big impact on the Department of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery.

In his first few months, he performed an aortic dissection repair with a newly approved device that not only covers the tear that caused the dissection but also helps to heal the rest of the aorta and prevent further tears from developing. It was the first procedure with this device at UConn and the second in the state. Amankwah had performed this same procedure in New York, the first of its kind in that state and only the second in the country.

Throughout his career, Amankwah has been among the first to use new technologies for inferior vena cava filters, devices for aortic work, therapies for the removal of clots within the arterial and venous systems, and a device for patients with pulmonary embolisms. The pulmonary embolism device was eventually approved for use in the U.S., and Amankwah was on the data safety review board for the study. He brings all of his experience and expertise to UConn Health. “The goal of all of this is to make UConn a destination center for vascular and endovascular care in the region,” he says.

Amankwah feels the best place to cultivate innovative technology and care is at an academic medical center.

“You get the benefits of interacting with different people, including basic science researchers and clinicians in other departments who are involved in cutting-edge research of their own,” he says. “At an academic medical center, you get a global view of different technologies and different specialties, and you might be able to incorporate some of those things into your own practice.”

Another benefit of working at an academic medical facility, he says, is shaping the future of medicine by working with medical students and residents. Amankwah’s background is steeped in education, and he even writes questions for many national medical exams for medical students and residents.

Looking to the future, Amankwah hopes to offer more new therapies to his patients, specifically new endovascular devices used for thoracoabdominal aneurysms with an upcoming clinical trial that he plans to participate in. “There’s always new technology on the horizon in vascular surgery,” he says. “It’s an exciting time to be practicing medicine.”

Fitbit Helps Save Patient’s Life

UConn Doctor checks patient's heart


This January, Patricia Lauder of Harwinton, Connecticut, had an illness she just couldn’t shake. Visits to doctors, testing, and X-rays came back negative for pneumonia or any other health issues.

Lauder started experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue after walking short distances. She noticed that her Fitbit fitness tracker — which the 73-year-old purchased after retiring to help her get in shape — was showing her resting heart rate increasing by five points a day.

On the day her resting heart rate spiked to 140 beats per minute, she called an ambulance.

A CT scan at UConn John Dempsey Hospital revealed she was suffering from two large blood clots in her lung arteries, known as pulmonary embolisms.

According to Dr. JuYong Lee, director of vascular and endovascular medicine at UConn Health’s Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, the mortality rate of a pulmonary embolism is more than 30 percent when it is massive.

Lee decided to intervene right away with an innovative, minimally invasive solution, applying clot-blusting drugs directly into the clots through a catheter.

The next day, Lauder’s blood clots were gone and her lung and heart health totally normalized.

“If I didn’t have a Fitbit on my wrist, I might not be here to tell my story,” Lauder says.