Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism occurs due to the blockage of main vessel (Pulmonary artery) in the lungs which carries bloods from heart to lungs. It affects men and women in equal ratio. PE is usually caused by blood clots that travel from legs or other parts of body to lungs. Massive pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening problem that may cause serious health problems, disability and even death if it is not treated at early stages.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PE differ greatly between individuals based on size of clots and how well the person's lung responding to blood clot. Most common symptoms include:-

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Low blood pressure
  • Clammy skin
  • Leg pain
  • Rapid heart rate

In few cases, people with PE may not have symptoms. You must seek a medical attention if you experience the above mentioned symptoms to prevent the high risk of PE.

Causes

Pulmonary embolism usually occurs when a blot clot gets wedged into the blood vessel (artery) of lungs from veins of legs or other parts of the body. This kind of condition is termed as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Apart from blood clot, other substances can form blockages in an artery. This includes,

  • Fat material from broken bone marrow
  • Tumor cells
  • Air bubbles in a vein

Some of the common factors that can increase the risk of PE are,

  • Medical History
  • Prolonged Immobility
  • Surgery
  • Smoking
  • Obesity problems
  • Pregnancy (Very rare)
  • Supplemental estrogen

Diagnosis

Doctor performs a physical exam thoroughly to identify PE condition. He may recommend series of tests to detect the cause of symptoms. This includes,

  • Blood tests: Sample of blood is sent to laboratory for analysis to detect the fragments of blood clot substance (D-dimer).
  • Chest X-ray: A chest x-ray is done to find pneumonia and lung related diseases. Usually, x-ray cannot detect PE condition.
  • Ultrasound: Doctor uses transducer device which generates sound waves to detect blood clots in the thigh veins.
  • CT scan: This kind of test detects the abnormalities in the arteries of lungs with the help of contrast material.
  • Pulmonary angiogram: Pulmonary angiogram test is highly sophisticated test used to diagnose PE and it provides accurate results. Usually, this kind of test is recommended when other test fails to diagnose the disease.

Doctor suggests tests such as MRI, ECG and V/Q lung scan based on symptoms and causes.

Treatment

Immediate treatment is essential to reduce PE otherwise it may lead to serious complications and even death. Medications such as anticoagulants and thrombolytics are usually given to a patient to dissolve and prevent clots from forming. Surgical procedures like clot removal and vein filter are used to remove and filter large clots in the lungs.

How to prevent pulmonary embolism

There are several methods that may be suggested to you by a doctor to prevent PE condition. This includes,

  • Anticoagulant medicine such as warfarin is given to people who are at high risk of pulmonary embolism.
  • Compression stockings help your veins and muscles in legs to flow blood effectively.
  • Healthy lifestyle helps you to prevent the risk of pulmonary embolism.