What is pulmonary embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a kind of blockage in the pulmonary artery, blood vessel, which carries blood to the lungs from the heart. The blockage – mostly a blood clot – can pose a threat to your life because it prevents the blood from reaching the lungs. Pulmonary embolism symptoms vary from one person to the other and they are therefore hard to recognize.

Small clots are not deadly, but may damage your lungs. Large clots will stop blood flow to your lungs, and can be a threat to your life. Apart from saving your life, faster treatment will minimize the risks of future issues.

Pulmonary embolism diagnosis

Diagnosing pulmonary embolism is hard, mainly because its symptoms are very close to those of other complications, such as panic attacks, pneumonia or heart attack. A doctor will conduct a physical examination, ask you questions relating to your symptoms and past health. That will help him/her know whether you are at a higher risk of pulmonary embolism or not. Depending on your risk, he may conduct tests to check existence of blood clots. The most common tests include CT scan, blood tests, ultrasound, MRI and electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).

Pulmonary embolism treatment

To treat pulmonary embolism, doctors will use medicines known as anticoagulants. Some people will call the medicine blood thinners, but in reality, they never thin the blood. They assist in preventing new clots and prevent the existing ones from growing larger. Mostly, people will take blood thinners for a short period (a few months), but individuals at a higher risk of developing the pulmonary embolism might take them for the rest of their lives.

Still, if the symptoms are life threatening, a doctor may recommend “clot-busting” drugs known as thrombolytics. The drugs are effective in dissolving clots but heighten the danger of serious bleeding. The other treatment option involves a minimally invasive procedure or surgery to remove embolectomy (the clot). Some individuals cannot take blood thinners. Others may form clots in spite of taking the medicine. And to prevent any future problem, the doctor may put a filter into vena cava (the large vein) that transports blood to the heart from the lower part of the body. Vena cava filters prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs.

Individuals who have suffered pulmonary embolism there before are at a greater danger of developing it again. Blood thinners can help in lowering the risk, but increases the risk of bleeding. If your doctor prescribes blood thinners, ensure that you have understood how to take them safely.

The causes of pulmonary embolism

A blood clot breaking loose from the leg and travelling to the lungs can result in pulmonary embolism. Nevertheless, the blood clots in veins closer to the skin is unlikely to cause issues; the blood clots in deeper veins (deep vein thrombosis) are known to cause pulmonary embolism. According to statistics, around 300,000 people, globally, develop pulmonary embolism or vein thrombosis each year.

Some other things such as amniotic fluid, air bubbles, tumors, or fat released into the blood vessels each time a bone breaks can block an artery. But the chances of the latter causing issues are very low. Anything that increases your chances of forming blood clots heightens your pulmonary embolism risk.

What can heighten the chances of developing pulmonary embolism?

Anything that heightens your chances of developing a blood clot increases pulmonary embolism risk. If you were born with blood that clots very fast, your chances of developing pulmonary embolism are higher. Some other things that increase the risk include:

1.Remaining inactive for a very long time.

After a serious illness or surgery, you might remain on bed for a long period and that can contribute to the problem development. The problem may also arise in individuals who sit on car or flight trips for longer hours.

2.Recent surgery.

A more recent surgery involving the hips, legs, brain or belly can be a predisposing factor.

3.Some diseases.

The diseases include heart failure, cancer, stroke or severe infections.

4.Pregnancy and childbirth.

That is particularly to women who had cesarean section.

Relying on hormone control therapy or birth control pills


Regular smokers are at a greater risk of developing pulmonary clots. Elderly individuals, particularly those past the age of 70 years, and those with obesity are also at a higher risk.

The best way to prevent pulmonary embolism

To lower the risk of developing pulmonary embolism, do the things that help in preventing blood clots formation in the legs. Therefore, avoid sitting for longer hours, walk for several hours in a week and start moving as soon as possible after a surgery or a severe illness. Furthermore, you have to avoid drinks such as caffeine and alcohol. If you are at a higher risk, wear compression stockings. When using blood thinners, use them exactly how you should use them (consult your doctor).

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!