Success Stories

in Research and Patient Care

The power of research:
How the treatment of blood clots is being revolutionized right here in Ottawa

This is the story of Dr. Marc Rodger and his team’s groundbreaking thrombosis research.

Like many things in life, blood clots can be both helpful and harmful. They can save lives by sealing up wounds. They can prove deadly if they lodge in an organ and block blood flow.

As a thrombosis specialist at The Ottawa Hospital (TOH), Dr. Marc Rodger detects potentially deadly blood clots in the veins, breaks them up safely, and prevents them from coming back. As a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), he designs and tests new strategies for managing blood clots. His research has had an enormous impact at TOH, and around the world.

“The reason thrombosis research is important to me is that I can see that we can very effectively do something to help patients,” says Dr. Rodger, also a professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. “We’ve made improvements everywhere from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. Being able to make a difference - not only to patients locally, but also changing care for a generation of patients internationally - that’s something that matters to me.”

Over the last 10 years, Dr. Rodger and his colleagues have developed diagnostic models that are used around the world to streamline the detection of blood clots.

They have pioneered an innovative home-based blood clot treatment program and an interactive phone system to provide patients with regular drug dosage updates.

They are leading a major international clinical trial to improve the prevention of blood clots in high-risk pregnant women, and they have also developed a tool to predict when patients can safely stop blood clot treatment.

These innovations not only saved lives, they make treatments easier and more efficient for patients, their families and the health care system.

World-class care: a patient’s story

The OHRI’s Thrombosis Group has made a difference in countless lives, including that of well-known Ottawa lawyer and businessperson Thomas d’Aquino.

After experiencing sharp pain in his upper back, in 2005 d’Aquino was diagnosed with a double blood clot in the lung, and was later found to have a rare blood clotting condition called protein S deficiency.

“My first question was, ‘how can I read up on this thing that has happened to me?’” recalls d’Aquino. “Dr. Rodger was able to give me some research papers, including some papers that he and his colleagues had authored, and that was very helpful for me to quickly understand what it was that I was dealing with.”

“It’s not very often you meet a doctor who can diagnose what the problem is, but at the same time spends a considerable amount of time doing serious research,” says d’Aquino. “That, to me, is the best combination.”

As a result of OHRI research, d’Aquino was diagnosed rapidly, treated without being admitted to hospital and kept on life-saving blood thinners permanently.

“If Mr. d’Aquino would have come to us 12 years ago when I was in medical school, he would have been admitted to hospital and waited until Monday to get his scans to prove that he had a blood clot in his lung,” says Dr. Rodger. “He would have been treated in hospital with intravenous medications for a week, and then discharged on oral blood thinners.”

Thomas d’Aquino was discharged from the emergency room the Sunday night he came in, and has been treated as an outpatient ever since.

“The fact that I was being treated with something so serious, yet allowed to walk out the door and go home was very special, and psychologically, I think that was very important,” says d’Aquino.

“We’ve gone from a decade ago where all of this was done inefficiently in hospital at great burden to the system and to patients, to an efficient, streamlined, outpatient care model,” says Dr. Rodger.

Measuring the impact

How do you measure the impact of this research on patients like d’Aquino?

A key way to assess the quality of care is to examine the thickness of patients’ blood – it needs to be just thick enough to allow clotting if there is a wound, but not so thick that it causes clots to form when they aren’t needed. At the TOH Thrombosis Clinic, patients’ blood is in the ideal thickness range 80 per cent of the time, which is far greater than the 50 to 60 per cent range typical of other centres.

“I’m a huge fan of the Thrombosis Clinic,” says d’Aquino. “Everyone at the clinic has always treated me so well: everyone from that wonderful lady with the booming voice in the reception area…to the staff that work with Dr. Rodger. I’ve just had excellent treatment.”

To learn more about the Thrombosis Research Group, please click here.

Breakthrough OHRI Thrombosis Research Publications

  • Oake N et al. CMAJ January 2009;180(9):927-933.
  • Anderson DR et al. JAMA 2007;298:2743-2753.
  • Rodger MA et al. CMAJ 2008;179(5):417-426.
  • Wells PS et al. JAMA 2006;295(2):199-207.
  • Wells PS et al. N Engl J Med 2003;349(13):1227-35.