NEW YORK — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had successful two-hour surgery Monday at Tampa General Hospital to remove a blood clot from his right collarbone area.
"So far, so good," his surgeon, Dr. Karl Illig, told the Tampa Bay Times by phone.
And the key to whether Stamkos' recovery period takes one month, three months or in between depends largely on ultrasound in two weeks, Illig said.
The procedure includes removing a top rib, which alleviates a "nutcracker" effect in the collarbone area, where a vein is squeezed. The condition is called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy suffered from in September. Illig also performed that surgery.
Illig said patients typically rest and recover for 2-4 weeks then rehab for 1-2 months. But Vasilevskiy was doing light skating (with no shots) in 10 days; Stamkos could be in the same situation.
"That two months was terrible for me," Vasilevskiy said in October after returning to practice. "A lot of the same routine every day, it's tough mentally, because guys go on the road to play games and you just watch on TV and sit at home."
Patients need to be on blood thinners for 1-3 months after surgery and can't take part in contact while taking the medication. But Stamkos' ultrasound could determine how long he needs to be on them. So Stamkos could potentially return to the Lightning in May or June, or not at all. The playoffs begin April 13.
"It'll be symptom status, how the patient is feeling, and ultrasound," Illig said. "One extreme is the patient feeling incredibly well and he has no problem whatsoever, and ultrasound is crystal clear. That would be something we'd lean on for a shorter time frame."
Illig said this syndrome is more common among baseball pitchers and tennis players, who use an arm-over-the-shoulder motion. Illig added that four players in Major League Baseball have had this surgery — including Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, in 2011. But Illig had never seen this type of clot in hockey players until this season, and it's stunning that both are with the Lightning.
"I think this was nothing that the Lightning are doing or the players are doing," Illig said. "This is a very, very, very odd and interesting coincidence."
Illig said the fact Vasilevskiy already had this condition, undergoing surgery in September before returning to an NHL game roughly two months later, helped the Lightning identify the issue and give Stamkos the best treatment.
"I want to say it's a problem for the Lightning because they're hoisting the Stanley Cup," Illig joked. "I want them to have that risk."