Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism

What to Know If You Have Pulmonary Embolism

People who have recently been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism may wonder what is a pulmonary embolism, what are the symptoms, and how is it treated. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a major artery in the lung is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. This often happens when a blood clot in the leg breaks off and travels to the lung. A small amount of cases are caused by air or fat. Most cases of pulmonary embolism are not deadly, but if the clot is too large or is not taken care of quickly, it can prevent blood from flowing to the lung, which can be potentially fatal.

People who are older than 70 years old and people who are obese have more of a risk of pulmonary embolism. Other common pulmonary embolism causes include:

  • Prolonged bedrest after a surgery or illness.
  • Diseases such as cancer, heart failure, and stroke.
  • Childbirth, particularly a cesarean section.

Pulmonary embolism has several noticeable symptoms that can bring awareness to the condition. The most common pulmonary embolism signs include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Coughing or coughing up blood
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration in the lips or fingers)

Pulmonary embolism diagnosis can be complicated because doctors will need to thoroughly review a patient’s medical history to know if they are at a high risk for the condition. Doctors will often use a pulmonary embolism ECG to measure electrical activity of the heart. This test will rule out the possibility of a heart attack. Also, doctors may perform an arterial blood gas analysis to test for a drop in the oxygen level of the blood.

A common pulmonary embolism treatment is anticoagulent medicines that prevent new blood clots from forming. If the condition is severe and prevents blood flow to the lungs, more aggressive treatments may be used, such as thrombolytic medicines, which dissolve blood clots. People with a severe pulmonary embolism may need an embolectomy, which is a surgery to remove the clot.

Although many cases of pulmonary embolism are not severe, the condition needs to be treated quickly to prevent it from getting worse. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism and see a doctor immediately if you are at a high risk and notice any symptoms.


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