What is Pulmonary Embolism?

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include sudden shortness of breath, pain in and around the chest, and coughing. A pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot is a serious but treatable condition. You can find more information below.

What is a pulmonary embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung that occurs when a clot in another part of the body (usually in the leg or arm) travels through the bloodstream and lodges in the blood vessels of the lung. That’s why it’s also known as a pulmonary embolism . This restricts blood flow to the lungs, lowers oxygen levels in the lungs, and increases blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

If a clot forms in a vein and stays there, it is called a thrombus . If the clot separates from the vessel wall and travels to another part of your body, it is called an embolism .

If pulmonary embolism is not treated quickly, they can cause heart or lung damage and even death.

How serious is it?

Pulmonary embolism may resolve on its own; It is rarely fatal when properly diagnosed and treated. But if left untreated, it can be serious and lead to other medical complications, including death. It can also be life-threatening, depending on heart damage and the size of the clot.

What causes pulmonary embolism?

Causes of pulmonary embolism include:

  • It occurs when blood collects in a specific part of the body (usually an arm or leg). Pooling of blood usually happens after surgery or prolonged periods of inactivity, such as bed rest.
  • This can happen when vessels are injured (especially in the pelvis, hip, knee, or leg) during procedures such as surgery.
  • It can occur as a result of cardiovascular disease ( including congestive heart failure , atrial fibrillation, and heart attack) or another medical condition, such as a stroke.
  • Pulmonary embolism can develop when blood clotting factors increase, increase, or in some cases decrease.
  • High clotting factors may occur in certain types of cancer or in some women taking hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills.
  • Abnormal or low clotting factors can occur as a result of inherited conditions.
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Who is at risk?

The following people are at higher risk of developing a blood clot:

  • Long periods of inactivity due to bed rest or surgery
  • Have a family history of a blood clotting disorder such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism
  • If you have a history of cancer or are receiving chemotherapy
  • If sitting for a long time

People at risk of developing a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Long periods of inactivity when traveling by motor vehicle, train or plane
  • Those with a history of heart failure or stroke
  • Those who are overweight or obese
  • Recent trauma or injury to a vein (possibly due to a recent surgery, fracture or varicose vein)
  • Those who are pregnant or have given birth in the previous 6 weeks
  • Those taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone replacement therapy
  • Insertion of central venous catheters through the arm or leg

If you have any of these risk factors and have had a blood clot, please talk to your doctor so that steps can be taken to reduce your personal risk.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism?

Pulmonary embolism symptoms vary depending on the severity of the clot. While most people with pulmonary embolism experience symptoms, some do not. The first symptoms are usually shortness of breath and chest pains that get worse when you push yourself. Bloody sputum is also among the symptoms.

If you have the following symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. Pulmonary embolism is serious but easily treatable. Prompt treatment greatly reduces the chance of death.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath (may be when moving or standing)
  • Unexplained sharp pain in the chest, arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw (pain can also be similar to heart attack symptoms)
  • Cough (sometimes with blood and phlegm)
  • Pale, moist, or bluish-colored skin
  • rapid heartbeat (pulse)
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Feeling anxious, dizzy and fainting in some cases
  • wheezing when breathing
  • back pain when breathing
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It’s also possible not to have any symptoms if you have a blood clot, so it’s best to discuss your risk factors with your doctor.

When should you see a doctor?

If you have any symptoms, it is a good idea to seek immediate medical attention.

How is pulmonary embolism diagnosed?

People with pulmonary embolism are usually detected by the following tests:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Lung scan
  • Blood tests ( including D-dimer test)
  • Pulmonary angiogram
  • Leg ultrasound (helps identify blood clots in patients who are unable to get an X-ray due to a dye allergy or are too sick to leave the hospital room)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging of the legs or lungs

How is pulmonary embolism treated?

Treatment for pulmonary embolism is typically provided in a hospital where your condition can be closely monitored. Your treatment and length of hospital stay will vary depending on the severity of the clot.

Depending on your medical condition, treatment options may include anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, thrombolytic therapy, compression stockings, and sometimes surgery or interventional procedures to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of future blood clots.

anticoagulant drugs

In most cases, treatment consists of anticoagulant drugs (also called blood thinners). Anticoagulants reduce the blood’s ability to clot and prevent future blood clots.

Anticoagulant drugs include warfarin, heparin, low molecular weight heparin, and fondaparinux.

  • Warfarin is in tablet form and is taken orally.
  • Heparin is a liquid medicine and is given by subcutaneous (under the skin) injections in an intravenous line or hospital that delivers the medicine directly into a vein.
  • Low molecular weight heparin is injected subcutaneously. It is given once or twice a day and can be taken at home.
  • Fondaparinux is a new medicine that is injected under the skin once a day.

The patient will be given further information on how to take the prescribed anticoagulant medication. As with any medication, it is important to understand how and when to take the anticoagulant and to follow the doctor’s directions.

The type of medication prescribed, how long it should be taken, and the type of observational follow-up that will be needed depend on your diagnosis. You should keep all your scheduled follow-up appointments with your doctor and laboratory so that your response to the medication can be closely monitored.

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Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

thrombolytic therapy

Thrombolytic drugs, including tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), are used to dissolve the clot. Thrombolytics are always given in a hospital where the patient can be closely monitored. These drugs are used in special circumstances, such as when the patient’s blood pressure is low or the patient’s condition is unstable due to pulmonary embolism.

Compression stockings

Compression stockings aid blood flow in the legs and should be used as prescribed by the doctor. The stockings are usually knee-length and compress the legs to prevent blood from pooling.

A doctor’s advice should be sought on how, for how long and how to store the compression stockings. It is important to wash the compression stockings according to the instructions to avoid damage.

Other procedures

If the pulmonary embolism is life-threatening or other treatments are not effective, the doctor may recommend the following:

  • Surgery to remove the embolism from the pulmonary artery
  • An interventional procedure in which a filter is placed inside the body’s largest vein so that clots can be caught before they enter the lungs

Can pulmonary embolism be prevented?

Things that can reduce your risk of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Exercise regularly. If you are unable to walk around due to bed rest, recovery from surgery, or long-term travel, move your arms, legs, and feet for a few minutes every hour. If you know you have to sit or stand for long periods of time, wear compression stockings to encourage blood flow.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and juice, but avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine.
  • If you need to be inactive for a long time, move for a few minutes every hour. Move your feet and legs, bend your knees and stand on your toes.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid crossing your legs.
  • Do not wear tight clothing.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Lift your feet for 30 minutes twice a day.
  • Talk to your doctor about reducing your risk factors, especially if you or any of your family members have experienced a blood clot.

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