What is it? It is a blood clot that occurs in the lungs.
Which can damage a part of the lung due to restricted blood flow, decrease oxygen levels in the blood, and damage other organs.
Large or multiple blood clots can be fatal. The blockage can be life-threatening, but immediate emergency treatment dramatically increases the chances of avoiding permanent lung damage.
Blood clots can form for a variety of reasons. Pulmonary emboli are mainly caused by deep vein thrombosis, a condition in which blood clots form in the body’s deep veins.
Blood clots that most often cause pulmonary emboli usually begin in the legs or arms.
The factors that increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are:
- Family history of embolisms
- Fractures of the leg or hip
- Genetic disorders include blood clotting (hypercoagulability), including factor V Leiden, the genetic mutation of prothrombin, and elevated homocysteine levels.
- History of heart attack or stroke
- Important surgeries
- A sedentary lifestyle
The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism depend on the size of the clot and where it lodges in the lung. The most common symptom is lack of air.
This can be gradual or sudden. Other symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Cold, damp, or bluish skin
- Chest pain that can spread in the arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fast breathing
- Fast beats
- Expectoration with blood
- Weak pulse
In some cases, a pulmonary embolism can be difficult to diagnose, especially if you have an underlying lung or heart disease, such as emphysema or high blood pressure.
When addressing the doctor, it is pertinent to ask about your state of health in which you are and the pre-existing conditions you may have.
The doctor will usually perform one or more of the following tests to discover the cause of your symptoms.
Chest X-ray: This is a non-invasive test that allows doctors to see the heart and lungs in detail and problems with the lungs’ bones.
Electrocardiography (ECG): This test measures the heart’s electrical activity.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This analysis uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce detailed images.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: This scan gives the doctor the ability to see images of cross-sections of the lungs.
Pulmonary angiography: This test involves making a small incision so that the doctor can guide specialized tools through the veins.
The doctor will inject a special dye to see the lung’s blood vessels in contrast.
Duplex venous ultrasound: This test uses radio waves to visualize blood flow and check for blood clots in the legs.
Venography: This is an X-ray test specializing in the veins of the legs.
The treatment of a pulmonary embolism depends on the size and location of the blood clot.
If the problem is minor and detected early, the doctor can recommend medications as treatment; some of them can break small clots.
The drugs that the doctor can prescribe for this type of case are:
IMPORTANT: Never self-medicate; always consult your trusted doctor.
Anticoagulants: Medications such as heparin and warfarin prevent the formation of new clots in the blood. They can save a life in an emergency.
Clot thickeners (thrombolytics): These medications accelerate the breakdown of a clot. They are usually reserved for emergencies due to side effects, including dangerous bleeding.
Surgery may be necessary to remove problematic clots, especially those restricting blood flow to the lungs or heart.
Some surgical procedures that a doctor may use in the case of a pulmonary embolism include:
Vein filter: The doctor will make a small incision and then use a thin wire to install a small filter into your inferior vena cava (the central vein leading from the legs to the right side of the heart).
The filter prevents the formation of blood clots that travel from the legs to the lungs.
Clot removal: A thin tube called a catheter will suction large clots from your artery. Due to the difficulty, it is not an effective method, so it is not always a preferred treatment method.
Open surgery: Doctors use open surgery only in emergencies when a person is in shock or the medications are not working to break the clot.
After receiving the proper treatment for a pulmonary embolism in the hospital, you are advised to treat the underlying cause. This is typically a deep vein thrombosis.
The most recommended are anticoagulant drugs such as heparin and warfarin to prevent blood clots from reappearing.
It may also be necessary to use compression stockings – similar to half or very tight socks – or another device to prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs.
Regular exercise on the legs is also a key component in therapy after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
The doctor will give full instructions on how to take care of yourself to prevent future blood clots.