Pulmonary embolism is a medical condition where blood clots occur in the lungs, causing blockage to the lung arteries. It is one of the most dangerous lung disorders and can cause death, if went untreated for long. Pulmonary embolism can damage part or complete lungs due to restricted blood flow and less supply of oxygen in the blood. It can also affect other vital organs and have the tendency to grow faster, which can be fatal. Legs and pelvis region are the most common area where pulmonary embolism occurs.
Causes and symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism
One most common causes of Pulmonary Embolism is deep vein thrombosis where blood clots form in the veins. Other risk factors include suffering from cancer, family history of pulmonary embolisms, fracture in the legs or hip, a genetic blood clotting condition such as Factor V Leiden, prothrombine gene mutation and homocysteine, history of heart attack, obesity, surgery, and age. Prescription of testosterone and estrogen can also contribute to the condition.
Symptoms of the disease may vary depending on the size and location of the blood clot, which may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weak pulse
- Rapid or abnormal heartbeat
- Feeling lightheaded
- Spitting blood
- Chest pain that extends to other body parts
- Clammy or bluish skin
- Increased breathing
Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism
Diagnosis of pulmonary embolism could be quite difficult, especially in the case of underlying heart or lung condition like high blood pressure or emphysema. The doctor will ask for the symptoms and based on what you said, will perform several medical tests to determine the exact cause. These tests include:
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary angiography
- Duplex venous ultrasound
- Blood tests
Based on the results of these tests, the doctor will decide the treatment method to be followed.
Treatment of Pulmonary Embolism
There are usually two ways by which pulmonary embolism can be treated, surgical or non-surgical. The doctor will choose the option that is most appropriate for the patient, based on the medical test results, size and location of the blood clots.
If the blood clot is minor and diagnosed early, the doctor may recommend medications that would break the clots. Drugs such as anticoagulants, heparin, warafin and thrombolytics can help the patient get relief from blood clots by breaking them and preventing it from creating any emergency conditions.
However, if the blood clots are large and cannot be treated with drugs, then surgical procedure is used.
When blood clots begin obstructing the blood to flow to the heart and lungs, the surgical method is used where the doctor manually removes it. There are genrally two types of surgery for treating pulmonary embolism:
- Vein filter: This procedure involves making a small incision in the vena cava, the main vein that goes from your legs to the heart, and install a small filter that prevents the blood clots from passing to your lungs and heart.
- Clot removal: This procedure refers to the removal of clots using a thin tube known as a catheter, which sucks the clots from the artery. Doctors rarely choose this method due to the complications associated with it.
- Open surgery: This method is used in emergency situations when medications are not able to break the clots.
Pulmonary embolism treatment does contain some side effects if the blood clots are large or diagnosed quite late. These side effects may include:
- Bleeding and bruising
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heartbeat
Post operative care
Once the treatment is finished, you will receive deep vein thrombosis treatment. You will begin taking medications such as heparin and warafin to prevent returning blood clots.
You will require to wear compression stockings to avoid formation of blood clots in the legs.
Perform regular exercise and follow the guidelines given by the doctor carefully.
Visit every follow up appointments to ensure you are having a healthy recovery.