What is a pulmonary embolism? Pulmonary embolism defines the sudden blockage of a pulmonary artery inside the lung by an embolus, typically from a blood clot that has an origin somewhere else in the body, such as a deep vein thrombosis of the leg. When it comes to defining signs and pulmonary embolism symptoms, the distinction in terminology is important.
Signs are visible, while symptoms are expressed by what a patient feels. The most common type of embolus traveling to the lungs is caused by a DVT that has become dislodged and travels upward until it reaches the lungs.
A number of causes for blood clots forming in the lower extremities include prolonged bed rest, immobility from long journeys, or an injury, typically caused by fractures damage to surrounding vessels and tissues.
Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms & Signs
There are a variety of common signs that can be observed. Here are some of the most common signs of a pulmonary embolism:
- Shortness of breath – this shortness of breath or difficulty breathing typically comes on suddenly. Breathing may be rapid.
- Response to anxiety (a symptom) that is viewed by pacing or verbal expressions of worry.
- Responses to sudden, sharp pains in the chest, especially during inhalation. This pain is called pleuritic chest pain.
- Blue-tinged skin is an indication that oxygen deprivation is occurring. Bluish-tinged lips and fingertips are the first indication that the lungs are not oxygenating blood adequately.
- Individuals who experience recurring (small) pulmonary emboli may also display swollen ankles or legs, and experience generalized weakness.
There are also several pulmonary embolism symptoms to keep in mind and be aware of. One symptom that is common is complaints of lightheadedness. An individual may also complain about an erratic heart rate.
A pulmonary embolism can also cause a pulmonary infarction or lung tissue death. In such cases, seek emergency help immediately. Pulmonary infarction can trigger bouts of coughing that bring up bloody sputum. This emergency also causes severe and sharp chest pain.
Proper PE Prevention
Surgical procedures, blunt force injury and trauma, obesity, and inactivity all increase the risk of blood clots. A pulmonary embolism occurs when such clots break off and travel to the blood vessels serving the lungs, the heart, or the brain. Each may cause severe damage and even death.
Prevention methodologies include adequate hydration, weight loss if needed, increased mobility (under physician supervision), and careful observance following any surgical procedure, long-term bed rest, or chronic illness. Discuss signs, symptoms, diagnostics, and potential treatments with your physician if you feel at risk for a pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary Embolism Treatment Methods
Proper treatment for a pulmonary embolism is an essential piece of the puzzle if you have been diagnosed. Pulmonary embolism treatment is designed to prevent new clots from forming and to keep the current blood clot from growing. There are a couple of different methods for treating pulmonary embolisms. One option is medication. These medications include blood thinners and clot dissolvers or thrombolytics which can help dissolve clots quickly. The form of pulmonary embolism treatment is through surgery. The two methods of surgery used are clot removal, where the doctor will remove the clot with a flexible, thin tube and vein filters.