A pulmonary embolism or pulmonary embolus occurs when an obstruction or blockage forms within one of the pulmonary arteries suddenly, which may lead to death in the part of the lung that is drained by this artery if not promptly treated.
A pulmonary embolus usually develops when a blood clot that is already in the bloodstream ruptures and travels through it into a pulmonary artery and then settles in the lung, which can lead to irreversible lung damage and reduced oxygen levels in the blood.
Damage to other body organs may occur as a result of insufficient oxygen delivery to it. The pulmonary embolism has an effect on the heart due to obstruction of blood flow, causing excessive pressure on it. It is a life-threatening condition, as we mentioned, especially if the thrombus causing it is large or if there are multiple clots .
Causes Of Pulmonary Embolism:
A pulmonary embolus can occur in anyone, but the risk of developing it increases when there are factors that predispose to the occurrence of thrombosis:
Deep vein Thrombosis:
(Thrombosis inside the deep veins of the lower extremities), the thrombus breaks out from its place and goes through the veins to the heart and from there to the lung, and the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis is more common when:
Those who undergo prolonged bed-rest operations (especially joint replacement surgeries).
Trauma patients (pelvic and thigh fractures).
Those with associated health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or even cancer.
Women who take oral contraceptives or who are undergoing hormonal replacement therapy (pharmacologically for hormonal deficiencies).
Pregnant women and those whose risk extends to the postpartum period, where it reaches its highest level around the sixth week after birth.
The elderly, where the risk of pulmonary embolism increases with age, especially those over 40 years of age.
Obese and genetically predisposed people where it has been found that certain genes may increase the likelihood of thrombosis and thus pulmonary embolism .
A month before they happen: symptoms indicating that you have had a heart attack
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism:
In the normal state, the blood going to the lungs extracts oxygen from the air in them and excretes carbon dioxide in it, which is a passive process (that does not need to expend energy) that only requires a normal and sufficient blood flow to the lungs, and from it the symptoms of a pulmonary embolus vary in shape and severity depending on the degree of disturbance of the previous mechanism As we find that half of the patients do not show any symptoms and the other half may suffer from:
- Shortness of breath.
- A heart rhythm disorder.
- Chest pain and sometimes hemoptysis (coughing up blood).
- Symptoms arising from the presence of a thrombus outside the lung, especially in the leg (warmth of the skin over the area of the thrombus – swelling – pain – redness).
Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism:
Diagnosing a pulmonary embolism can be difficult, and to make a diagnosis, the doctor performs the following procedures:
- Asking about a person’s medical history, which includes asking about symptoms and risk factors for embolism .
- A good clinical examination of the patient for signs of an embolus (previously mentioned).
- Complementary examinations, especially the simple chest scan and blood tests .
Pulmonary Embolism Treatment
A pulmonary embolus is a very critical condition that requires immediate treatment. The aim is to dissolve the clot causing the embolism and prevent the formation of new clots. The available treatment options for a pulmonary embolus include :
- Anticoagulants, or what is known as blood thinners : They aim to prevent the increase in the size of pre-existing clots and stop the formation of new clots. One of their side effects is that they increase the likelihood of bleeding, especially if other medicines that have an anticoagulant effect such as aspirin are taken .
- Thrombosis cases : They are drugs that dissolve existing clots. One of their side effects is that they may cause sudden bleeding, so they are used only if the symptoms are severe or the situation is life-threatening .
- Catheter thrombus removal : This procedure is used to insert a tube through the bloodstream to the site of the clot in the lungs and dissolve it, a procedure that is often performed under general anesthesia .
- Inferior vena cava filter : This procedure is used in patients who are unable to take blood thinners, where a filter (filter) is inserted into a large vein called the inferior vena cava that stops clots before they reach the lungs, but does not stop the formation of new clots .
Prevention of Pulmonary Embolism In high-Risk People
The risk of pulmonary embolism can be reduced by following ways to prevent deep vein thrombosis by :
- Continuing to take blood thinners, and it is important to consult a specialist doctor periodically to ensure that the dose given is effective in preventing clots from forming without causing bleeding .
- Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle rich in movement and activity, following a heart-healthy diet, which is a low-salt and low-fat diet, moderate exercise, stopping smoking in people who smoke .
- Using compression stockings that provide continuous pressure on the veins in the lower extremities to help blood flow through them and prevent deep vein thrombosis .
- Moving the legs when sitting or lying down for long periods (such as on long flights).
- Return to movement as soon as possible after surgery or health conditions that require bed-rest to prevent the formation of clots and restore blood flow to normal .
In conclusion , pulmonary Embolism (thrombosis) is a life-threatening condition, but fortunately it is easy to expect its occurrence in people exposed to it, so with the commitment to preventive treatment and follow-up of the case with the doctor periodically, prevention succeeds in sparing the patient from infection in most cases.