Are you at risk of a pulmonary embolism? If you are unsure of the warning signs of a possible PE, how to get a diagnosis, and what treatment options you have, you will learn the basics in this article.
What Is A Pulmonary Embolism?
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the pulmonary artery of your lung.
It is caused by a clot that has been dislodged and travels up through your vein. The clot then lodges in your pulmonary artery causing an embolism.
Most commonly, blood clots occur following surgery, from a lack of physical activity or cancer.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a clot from your leg that travels to the heart artery and then into the lung. The clot can dislodge and travel to the pulmonary artery and stops the flow of blood, which means that the blood is being blocked and cannot get through.
Blockages such as this can cause a lack of oxygen that can cause damage to other organs of your body and damage to the lungs.
Signs Of A Pulmonary Embolism
Every person is different in how they respond to trauma or a medical condition. However, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of if you are at risk for a blood clot:
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Coughing up blood;
- Clammy or bluish skin;
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat;
- Weak pulse;
If you have any of these symptoms, especially shortness of breath and chest pain, you need to seek medical attention immediately.
How To Diagnose PE
Diagnosing a pulmonary embolism can be difficult if you have underlying lung or heart problems.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of a potential PE, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your overall health and about any pre-existing conditions you may have.
These questions should include information about family history with blood clots, recent surgery, or if you have cancer.
Once your doctor determines your risk factor for a PE, they will perform the following tests:
- Chest x-ray – Allows the doctor to see your heart and lungs in detail.
- MRI – Uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce a detailed image of your heart and lungs.
- Electrocardiography (ECG) – Measures your heart’s electrical activity.
- CT scan – Allows doctors to see a cross-sectional image of your lungs.
- Pulmonary angiography – A special dye is injected, and a small incision is made so your doctor can guide a special tool through your veins so they can see the blood vessels in your lungs.
- Venography – Special x-ray of the veins in your legs.
- Duplex venous ultrasound – Uses radio waves to see the blood flow in your legs and check for blood clots.
What You Need To Do If Diagnosed With PE
Talk to your doctor if you think you have any of the symptoms or have the risk factors. Therapy for PE consists of several recommendations from your health care provider:
- The most common is prescribing medicine that will open up the artery walls and thin the blood.
- Some medicines will dissolve the blood clots if it is confirmed one exists.
- Therapy for PE can also include surgical removal of the clot.
- If you are not able to take blood thinners, then there is a filter that can be surgically put in the heart artery that will filter the clots and let the blood flow into the lung arteries safely.
You should discuss the possible treatment options with your doctor so you can determine which one is best for you.
Being aware of high-risk factors is the most important part you can do as a patient of DVT or PE.
Eating a healthy diet, being active, and taking the advice of your health care professional is of utmost importance to your overall health.
See your provider if you have any of the symptoms of pulmonary embolism regardless of risk factors.