Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot that has developed in the veins of the limbs breaks away, blocking an artery in the lungs. It is a very serious condition, so much so that many medical professionals believe it contributes to more inpatient deaths than infection.
The type of clot most likely to cause serious problems such as this is usually located deep in the veins. This is called a deep vein thrombosis, and while it usually occurs in a leg or in the pelvis, it can also develop in an arm.
There are several symptoms that can indicate the occurrence of pulmonary embolism. The most common symptom is shortness of breath. Others include:
- Anxiety and restlessness;
- Chest pain
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Pain radiating from chest into the jaw, neck, shoulder, and arm
- Rapid breathing
- Skin tone blue in appearance
- Spitting up or coughing up blood
Risk factors for Pulmonary Embolism
The primary risk factors for developing a pulmonary embolism include:
- Being obese
- Blood clotting disorders
- Family history
- Having a prior episode of pulmonary embolism
- Heart conditions
- Prolonged periods of immobility
- Undergoing major surgery
Treating Pulmonary Embolism
Patients diagnosed with the condition are almost always put immediately on an IV delivery of heparin, a blood-thinning drug. However, some cases will require more aggressive methods of vascular and/or endovascular treatment. After successful elimination of the blood clot, many patients are put on long-term drug therapies and encouraged to use compression socks and other devices to keep the blood flowing in the limbs.