Pulmonary Embolism


A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that often develops in a leg vein and travels back through the bloodstream to lodge in one of the pulmonary arteries of the lungs. This sudden blood clot can cause your lungs and heart to fail and can become fatal in a short amount of time. Fortunately, the chances of surviving a pulmonary embolism increase with swift diagnosis and treatment by a physician.

Pulmonary embolism affects around 1 in 1,000 people in the U.S. every year.

The symptoms of pulmonary embolism correspond to the location and size of the blood clot. Shortness of breath is the most common symptom. Other symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and restlessness

  • Chest pain (Can extend into the shoulder, arm, neck, and jaw)

  • Coughing or spitting up blood

  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Rapid heartbeat

Clots likely to cause a pulmonary embolism usually are developed as part of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT usually occurs in your leg or pelvic veins, and in some cases, the arms. 

Factors that may increase the risk of DVT or pulmonary embolism include:

  • Cancer

  • Family history

  • Inherited blood-clotting abnormalities

  • Hip or leg fractures

  • History of heart attack or stroke

  • Major surgery

  • Obesity

  • Pregnancy, birth control pills, or estrogen replacement therapy

  • Smoking

  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time (e.g., Extended plane or car rides)

Anticoagulant Therapy – Heparin, an anticoagulant or blood thinner, may be administered intravenously as an initial treatment to prevent clots from forming or growing. Another option would be fractionated heparin, which is injected into the abdomen once or twice a day and functions the same as heparin.

Catheter Technique – Also known as suction thrombectomy. A catheter is used to shoot a salt solution into a blocked artery. The pressure pulls the clot towards the catheter’s tip and breaks it up. The catheter may also be fitted to a device with rotating heads to eliminate the clot. 

Pulmonary Embolectomy – This is a surgical treatment used for life-threatening blockages in the lungs that are unresponsive to other treatments.

Post-Treatment – Once a pulmonary embolism has been treated, an anticoagulant drug (warfarin) would be prescribed for a six-month period or long to reduce the risk of additional pulmonary embolisms. Blood testing and monitoring will be required to ensure proper dosage. 

Thrombolysis – This is a more aggressive treatment for a large embolism. The drug is delivered through a catheter directly into a clot to dissolve it. This procedure has a higher risk for bleeding complications and stroke but is more effective and acts faster 

Vena Cava Filter – If drug therapy is not feasible or effective enough to prevent future embolisms, a metal filter may be inserted with a catheter into the vena cava vein to trap clots before they reach your lungs. The filter may be temporary or permanent depending on your condition. 

To  stay health and prevent pulmonary embolisms in the future:

  • Wear elastic compression stockings to keep blood from pooling in your veins

  • Walk or flex your legs every hour on long plane or car trips.

  • Drink plenty of fluids when traveling, dehydration can increase blood’s tendency to clot,  

  • During times of  limited mobility, such as surgery or prolonged bed rest, anticoagulants may be used

You can depend on the expert team of medical professionals at Vascular Tyler to help you determine your best treatment options, based on your test results.

For questions or to schedule an appointment, contact us at (phone number).


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