A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of one or more arteries in the lungs. It is most often caused by a blood clot that travels to the lungs from another part of the body. Blood clots usually form in the veins of the legs or arms, but can dislodge and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. A pulmonary embolism is a complication of deep vein thrombosis, and can be life-threatening.
What Causes Pulmonary Embolism?
Pulmonary embolism can affect anyone, but certain factors, including the following, increase the risk of developing one:
- Physical inactivity
- Prolonged bed rest or travel
- Family history of blood-clotting disorders
- History of cancer or chemotherapy treatment
- Trauma or injury to a vein
- Oral contraceptive use
- Using hormone-replacement therapy
What Are The Symptoms Of Pulmonary Embolism?
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism vary depending on the severity of the blockage, but include the following:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Sharp pain in the chest, arm, shoulder, neck or jaw
- Clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
- Swelling in one of the legs
How Is Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosed?
A pulmonary embolism is difficult to diagnose, although it may be detected with the following:
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Lung scan
- Blood tests
- Pulmonary angiogram
Treatment Of Pulmonary Embolism
Treatment for pulmonary embolism requires vital signs need to be closely monitored. The clot’s severity and the patient’s medical condition determine the physician’s recommendation. Treatment for pulmonary embolism typically includes anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication; thrombolytic therapy; and surgical placement of an inferior vena cava filter.
Can Pulmonary Embolism Be Prevented?
Maintaining an appropriate level of physical activity, drinking plenty of fluids, and wearing compression stockings to keep circulation flowing in the legs help prevent pulmonary embolism.
IVC Filter Placement
An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a vascular filter that is inserted through a small incision into the main vein in the abdomen. This vein in the abdomen is called the inferior vena cava. The filter prevents blood clots from breaking loose in leg veins and lodging in the lung. The IVC filter is typically implanted permanently in those patients with a high risk of pulmonary embolism.