Pulmonary Embolism

What is Pulmonary Embolism


Pulmonary Ebolism: Dangers and Warning Signs

A pulmonary embolism is a serious medical condition of the lung. It occurs when a major artery in the lungs is blocked, most often by a blood clot but sometimes by fat or foreign substances. A pulmonary embolism can lead to a variety of complications which include pain, breathing difficulties, and death.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism tend to appear very quickly and without warning. Since a pulmonary embolism occurs in the lungs, the vast majority of the symptoms are linked to breathing. Breathing often becomes very difficult, but it can also become unusually rapid. Pain is a very common symptom, and that pain is usually caused by breathing. Many people who suffer from a pulmonary embolism will also violently cough up blood. Extreme cases will lead to symptoms associated with insufficient blood flow to the lungs and a lack of oxygen to the extremities, including discoloration, shock, and sudden death.

What are the Risk Factors?

Some people are more vulnerable to pulmonary embolisms than others. Deep vein thrombosis, a condition where blood clots form within certain veins, especially those in the legs, is a major risk factor for pulmonary embolisms. The clot formed in the vein is at risk of moving to the lungs, which causes the pulmonary embolism. Since a pulmonary embolism is usually caused by a blood clot, anything that increases the risk of a blood clot forming also increases the risk of a pulmonary embolism. These risk factors include obesity, immobility, damage to blood vessel walls, and increased exposure to chemicals that encourage blood to clot.

How can it be Prevented?

Hospitals can administer several different drugs that can reduce the risk of a pulmonary embolism in the short term. This is usually done after a dangerous clot has been detected. Anti-thrombosis stockings can be worn to reduce the risk of a clot forming at all, which in turn greatly reduces the risk of suffering from a pulmonary embolism. Aspirin can also reduce the risk of clotting and pulmonary embolism when it is administered over a long period of time.

How can it be Diagnosed and Treated?

Doctors can calculate the probability that a patient is suffering from a pulmonary embolism based on a variety of clinical information. If a pulmonary embolism is likely, it can be confirmed blood tests and a variety of imaging techniques.

After a pulmonary embolism has been detected it can be treated with anticoagulant therapy. The therapy works by destroying the clot that is blocking the artery. Supplementary treatments may be necessary to give the anticoagulant therapy time to work, such as oxygen support. Alternative treatments are occasionally necessary, and include surgery and thrombolysis treatments.

How is the Prognosis

While untreated pulmonary embolisms are very dangerous and result in death in approximately one quarter of cases, a treated embolism is significantly less dangerous. The mortality rate for patients after treatment is less than one percent.