Frequently Asked Questions About Pulmonary Embolism

Frequently Asked Questions About Pulmonary Embolism

Story at-a-glance -

  • Pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when an embolus blocks the blood flowing through an artery in the lungs
  • The pain caused by pulmonary embolism is often compared to having a heart attack because both occur in the chest area
  • The first step in diagnosing pulmonary embolism is a review of your medical history to look for possible risk factors related to the disease

Q: What causes pulmonary embolism?

A: Pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when an embolus blocks the blood flowing through an artery in the lungs.1 An embolus is any kind of matter that travels through the blood vessels until it reaches an area too small to pass.2 A blood clot is usually the main cause of pulmonary embolism. However, other substances may cause a blockage as well, such as:3

Fat from bone marrow of a broken long bone

Collagen or other tissue matter

A part of a tumor

Air bubbles

Everyone is at risk of developing blood clots, but certain factors can make you more susceptible to developing them compared to people who are healthier. The onset of cancer, for example, increases levels of certain substances in your body that may lead to the formation of blood clots. Surgery may also cause blood clots as a side effect.4

Q: What does pulmonary embolism feel like?

A: There are three prominent symptoms associated with pulmonary embolism:

Shortness of breath: Usually the first symptom to appear, it gradually worsens with continual exertion.

Coughing: The coughs you produce may show blood-streaked sputum.

Pain: Chest pain is another significant indicator of pulmonary embolism

The pain caused by pulmonary embolism is often compared to having a heart attack because both occur in the chest area. However, to help you distinguish if you have pulmonary embolism, you will notice that the pain becomes sharper only when you inhale.5

Q: How can you treat pulmonary embolism?

A: Early detection and treatment will dramatically increase your survival rate. If you’ve already been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, medical action is needed right away to prevent it from becoming fatal.6 There are several immediate treatments you can undergo if you suddenly develop life-threatening symptoms:7

Filters: A filter is inserted into the inferior vena cava to help keep the blood clot from reaching the lung. Anesthesia isn’t usually required in this procedure.

Catheter: A catheter will be inserted into the blood vessel. Once it reaches the blood clot, your physician may remove or dissolve the blockage depending on the doctor’s judgment.

Surgery: The clot can be manually removed through surgery. However, this procedure carries great risk and is only considered for massive pulmonary embolisms that may actually be life-threatening.

Q: How long can you have pulmonary embolism?

A: The duration of pulmonary embolism differs for each person who develops it. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sudden death occurs in 25 percent of people with pulmonary embolism if the clot blocks an important blood pathway. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s estimated that around 33 percent of diagnosed cases will have a recurrence within 10 years.8

Q: How is pulmonary embolism diagnosed?

A: The first step in diagnosing pulmonary embolism is a review of your medical history to look for possible risk factors related to the disease. This is because the symptoms of pulmonary embolism may be confused with other conditions. After this initial review, various tests may be conducted to help reach an accurate conclusion. Commonly used methods include:

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

X-ray tests

Ultrasound

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Arterial blood gas study

Pulmonary V/Q scan

MORE ABOUT PULMONARY EMBOLISM

Pulmonary Embolism: Introduction

What Is Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Pulmonary Embolism Causes

Pulmonary Embolism Types

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

Pulmonary Embolism Prevention

Pulmonary Embolism FAQ


< Previous

Pulmonary Embolism Prevention

Next >

Back to Diseases Index

Post your comment
Click Here and be the first to comment on this article