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Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage in one of the pulmonary artery that supplies blood to the lungs. It is one of the most common cardiovascular problems that restricts the blood flow to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism usually occurs due to the blood clots that are most commonly developed in the blood vessels of legs or rarely form the other parts of the body. These blood clots travel through the circulatory system to reach the lungs, which results in the decreased oxygen levels in the blood. Pulmonary embolism can affect other organs and can be life-threatening. Multiple blood clots can often be fatal as they decrease the blood supply.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
Pulmonary embolism is caused due to a blood clot that occurs in a deep vein of the leg. These clots travel through the bloodstream and block the pulmonary artery. Deep vein thrombosis is the main underlying cause of pulmonary embolism.
The factor that increases the risk of developing pulmonary embolism are:
The following are the serious complications that can occur due to pulmonary embolism:
The doctor would perform a physical examination and may enquire about the symptoms, overall health condition and family history. He would also take a history of chest pain and shortness of breath.
The following are the tests recommended to diagnose pulmonary embolism:
The treatment of pulmonary embolism aims to prevent the formation of new blood clots and serious complications.
Medications: Anti-coagulants are commonly known as blood thinners, heparin and warfarin are the most commonly used drugs to treat pulmonary embolism. However, these medications do not dissolve the blood clots but prevent the formation of new clots.
Thrombolytic therapy: Thrombolytics are used to dissolve large blood clots during life-threatening situations. This therapy is used only during the emergency situations as it can increase the risk of serious bleeding complications.
Inferior vena cava filter: Vena cava is a large vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart. A vena cava filter is inserted into the inferior vena cava (large vein), which prevents the blood clots from traveling to the lungs.
Embolectomy: Embolectomy is a surgical procedure for the removal of clots. A thin flexible tube known as a catheter is inserted through the blood vessels to remove the large clots.
The following are the tips to prevent pulmonary embolism:
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