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Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism Causes

The condition is often caused by blood clots in the veins, especially veins in the legs or in the hips. In rare conditions, air bubbles, fat droplets, amniotic fluid, or clumps of parasites or tumor cells may also obstruct the pulmonary vessels. Blood clot in the veins of the leg, also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is the most common cause of Pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary Embolism Definition

When an artery in the lung becomes blocked, Pulmonary embolism may occur. Though the condition is not fatal in most cases, it is still a leading cause of hospital deaths and is an increasing risk to passengers on long airplane flights.

Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis

Arterial blood gases and pulse oximetry are the common tests to evaluate the function of the lungs. Embolism meanwhile may be tested thru chest x-ray, pulmonary ventilation/perfusion scan, pulmonary angiogram, and CT angiogram of the chest. Detecting DVT on the other hand may involve Doppler ultrasound exam of an extremity, venography of the legs, and plethysmography of the legs. Abnormalities cause by a strain on the heart may be revealed thru an ECG.

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms and Signs

Depending on how much of the lung is affected, the size of the clot and overall condition health condition, symptoms of Pulmonary embolism greatly vary. In the absence of underlying causes, common signs and symptoms include sudden shortness of breath, chest pain that often mimics a heart attack, a cough that produces bloody or blood-streaked sputum, and rapid heartbeat or tachycardia. Other signs and symptoms that can occur with the condition are wheezing, leg swelling, clammy or bluish-colored skin, excessive sweating, anxiety, weak pulse, lightheadedness or fainting (syncope), and fever.

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

In severe cases of pulmonary embolism or life-threatening pulmonary embolism, immediately hospitalization and treatment are necessary. Definitive treatment may consist of dissolving the clot with thrombolytic therapy. To allow the body to re-absorb the existing clots faster, anticoagulant therapy is often performed to prevent the formation of more clots. Streptokinase, urokinase, or t-PA are among the commonly used clot-dissolving medication (thrombolytic therapy). In anti-coagulation therapy or preventing clot, the use of IVs such as heparin and warfarin for the oral medication are usually recommended. An inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) may be needed for patients who cannot tolerate anticoagulation therapy. And IVC filter is placed in the main central vein in the abdomen, allowing it to block large clots from traveling into the pulmonary vessels. Maintaining oxygen concentrations may require oxygen therapy. For patients at great risk for recurrent embolism, surgery is sometimes required.

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