Diving instructor saved by unique procedure

Science and Health

While practicing diving in Greece, Barak Haruvi of Eilat suddenly felt severe pain. The38-year-old diving instructor was told by doctors there to return urgently to Israel where he was diagnosed with a complicated and life-threatening malformation of a vein in the abdominal wall.

The unique treatment he underwent at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, will allow him to return to good health and engage in the profession he loves so much. Haruvi never dreamed that a complex medical condition would disable him from his occupation in the depths of the sea and threaten the continuation of his professional future. 

Dr. Itamar Tamir, director of the service for vascular and lymphatic malformations at the hospital, explained that vascular malformation is a deformity caused by the abnormal development of veins, arteries or lymphatic vessels. The phenomenon is usually congenital, but it can also appear after surgery or injury. 

The clinical expression of the phenomenon is very broad and can appear anywhere in the body – internal and external – and create a variety of problems ranging including severe pain, a tendency to bleed, esthetic damage and the formation of life-threatening blood clots. Some of the malformations are affected by the growth hormone and can increase around the age of puberty and during pregnancy in women.  

The treatment of the phenomenon is usually minimally invasive – “percutaneous” under the skin, without the need for incisions or stitches. In severe cases, the treatment is surgical because the vein has to be removed.  


Diving back in after diagnosis

“He came to us suffering from serious pain,” recalled Tamir. “After performing an MRI and CT scans, we diagnosed a very large venous malformation that developed over a long time in the abdominal wall and muscles. Any change in pressure when he was diving or lifting weights would cause him very severe suffering and make it difficult for him to function as a diver.” 

Because of the size and location of the vein, it was impossible to cut it out without causing extensive and irreversible damage, so the Hadassah team decided to perform a minimally invasive treatment in which we cauterize the abnormal blood vessels. To their delight, the treatment was very successful, and patient returned to diving shortly after the procedure. 

“When I was diagnosed, I was very frightened,” said Haruvi. “I started reading about the phenomenon and heard different opinions. I received various medications from pain clinics, but they didn’t relieve the severe pain in my upper body with every movement. I stopped working. Then I finally got to Hadassah Prof. Alan Blum, director of the invasive angio-radiology unit, and I realized that I had come to the right place. As soon as I met him, I felt I could trust him.”

Blum sent him for more tests and on to Tamir for the unusual treatment.

“I got my life back and returned to work as a diving instructor in Eilat. Now, I am active every day and painless. The operation they performed solved the problem, and it was only thanks to Dr. Tamir, who did everything possible along with the entire team at the invasive radiology unit. They were all very professional and kind,” Haruvi concluded.