Brandon Ingram is expected to make a full recovery after having thoracic outlet decompression surgery Saturday to repair a structural issue in his veins that caused a blood clot in his right arm.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Hugh Gelabert at the UCLA Medical Center, the Lakers announced.
“This was the best set of facts you could have with a clot,” Jeff Schwartz, Ingram’s agent, said. “It’s a night and day difference between a structural and hematological issue. Because it was structural, he will have a full recovery.”
Ingram had the surgery eight days after Lakers doctors discovered the blood clot, or deep venous thrombosis. He missed two games with what the Lakers called a sore shoulder on March 4 and 6. Ingram was given antibiotics to treat his issue, but when his condition didn’t improve, he underwent further testing and doctors suspected a blood clot.
After examining the area with a camera, doctors thought the problem was structural, not hematological, or a disease of the blood. Ingram then underwent blood testing that confirmed that diagnosis.
Ingram’s clot was caused when a vein in his arm became pinched, with not enough room for the blood to flow through it. Eventually it clotted.
Last week they began a procedure in which he was treated with anti-coagulants through an IV to dissolve the clot, before surgery corrected the structural problem in his vein.
The news for Ingram was positive on two fronts.
First, a blood clot in the lower body is more dangerous than a blood clot in the upper body, because clots in the lower body are more likely to travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. The clotting in his arm is common in athletes who raise their hands above their heads regularly, such as pitchers, golfers and swimmers.
Second, blood clots caused by a blood condition are much more likely to reoccur than clots caused by structural blockage. Chris Bosh’s career ended because of repeated blood clots, including in his calf and lungs.
Bosh is a close friend of LeBron James, who saw what a difficult time he had dealing with his clotting issues.
“It was uncertainty,” James said. “‘Why me? How do you tackle this? What’s next?’ That’s a lot of things that go through your head and you’ve just got to trust the medical staff that’s put in place for you, get your second opinion if you need one to clear your head and you take the necessary steps to getting back to being healthy. That’s what’s the most important.”
Mirza Teletovic, a Bosnian forward who played in the NBA from 2012 to 2018 had to retire after being diagnosed with pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in each lung.
According to a hematologist who has not examined Ingram and requested anonymity, people who have the type of surgery Ingram underwent are typically back to full strength or near full strength within 3-4 months.
The same doctor said the percentages for Ingram to make a full recovery is in the high 90s.
Ingram’s condition was discovered at a time when he was playing some of the best basketball of his three-year career.
In the six games before Ingram’s shoulder pain appeared, he scored at least 20 points in each game. Since the All-Star break, Ingram had scored 27.8 points per game, which ranks eighth in the NBA during that span.
The initial news of Ingram’s blood clot shook the Lakers. Coach Luke Walton declined to share any specifics about Ingram’s condition, citing Ingram’s privacy.
“I was real sad,” teammate Kyle Kuzma said. “It hits home for me because I know how much Brandon works, I know how bad he wants to be great, I know much he loves the game of basketball. To see it happen to him, obviously he loves to play basketball, he never sits out at practice, he’s always in the gym. … I couldn’t imagine what it’s like, so I feel for him every day.”
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