The lungs are vital for survival as they provide the oxygen intake needed to supply the blood. Thus, the arteries that supply the lungs are especially important for the functioning of the body. Like any other artery, these are also prone to blockages. Substances in the body can travel to the lungs and form blockages. When this occurs, it is termed a pulmonary embolism. The most common risk factor for pulmonary embolisms are the dislodging of a blood clot in the legs, which then travels to the lungs and impedes with blood flow. Deep vein thrombosis is thus one of the leading causes of the formation of a pulmonary embolism. Other risk factors for pulmonary embolisms are aging, obesity and genetic causes.
It is important to take steps to minimize the risk factors for pulmonary embolisms. Pulmonary embolism complications and symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, abnormal heart rate and fainting. Depending on the severity and size of the blockage, pulmonary embolisms are usually severe and life threatening. A quick pulmonary embolism diagnosis is vital to survival and prognosis. Thus, it is extremely important to seek medical assistance if you are experiencing any of the above pulmonary embolism complications. Physicians often used a series of tests and procedures to confirm their pulmonary embolism diagnosis. These can include ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans, perfusion scans, and pulmonary angiographs. These tests are vital as they aid in the management of pulmonary embolisms. Acute pulmonary embolism treatment involves the use of medications that prevent clots and seek to dissolve the active clot and surgery to remove the clot or prevent the spread of further clots from the body to the lungs. This can include the use of anticoagulant, antiplatelet and thrombolytic medications. Speed is the crucial element in the management of pulmonary embolisms. If treatment is given immediately, it can drastically improve the prognosis of pulmonary embolisms.
Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolisms
The most common risk factor for pulmonary embolisms is the formation of deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in the leg. This blood clot has the ability to dislodge and travel to other parts of the body, including the lungs. To avoid developing deep vein thrombosis, and thus pulmonary embolisms, it is important to exercise and avoid long periods of inactivity. Other risk factors for pulmonary embolisms are heart disease, lack of movement/exercise (long plane rides), smoking, obesity, aging, becoming pregnant, and a family history of blood clots. It is important to discuss with your physician on how best to minimize the risk factors contributing to the development of a pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolisms
Suffering from a pulmonary embolism can be not only life altering, but also fatal. The symptoms of pulmonary embolisms include severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart complications, excessive sweating, fatigue, difficulty exercising and fainting. These symptoms can greatly impair with everyday life. When left untreated, pulmonary embolisms can result in death via heart failure. This is due to the fact that the heart has to work harder because the lungs are not supplying the body with the oxygen it needs. It is important to be aware of these symptoms, as it is crucial to quickly begin management of pulmonary embolisms. Seek medical assistance immediately if any of these symptoms present themselves as it could be life saving.
Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis
Physicians often elect to perform various tests and procedures to confirm the presence of a pulmonary embolism. This is so management of pulmonary embolisms can begin immediately. These can tests and procedures can include blood tests, ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans, perfusion scans and pulmonary angiographs.
Blood tests are a safe way to examine for the presence of a blood clot. Physicians are looking for a protein termed “d-dimer” which, when present in substantial amounts, indicates a higher probability a blood clot is present.
Ultrasounds are non-invasive test to examine how efficiently blood is flowing through the body. They are one of the best methods to detect if deep vein thrombosis is present. If doctors determine that blood flow is abnormal in the lungs, steps should be taken in the management of pulmonary embolisms.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scans
CT scans are also another non-invasive test that can help detect the presence of a blood clot so the management of pulmonary embolisms can begin. CT scans can help provide detailed images of the body and can thus be crucial in the detection of a pulmonary embolism.
Lung Perfusion Scans
Perfusion scans are usually only used in pulmonary embolism diagnosis. Lung perfusion scans help provide information on how well air and blood are flowing throughout the lungs. Abnormal results usually mean that a pulmonary embolism is present and the management of pulmonary embolisms should begin.
Pulmonary angiographs are rarely used in pulmonary embolism diagnosis due to their invasive nature, but do provide meaningful results. Pulmonary angiographs involve the use of a catheter inserted into one of the blood vessels in the lower extremities. A radioactive dye is inserted through this catheter so x-ray images can be taken of the dye following through the body. This can help detect the presence of blood clots in the lungs.
These diagnostic procedures are vital as they can determine if management of pulmonary embolisms is required. It is best to consult with your doctor on pulmonary embolism diagnosis.
Management of Pulmonary Embolism
If needed, the management of pulmonary embolisms should begin immediately. This is due to the fact that prognosis of pulmonary embolisms greatly improves if treatment is sought immediately. Acute pulmonary embolism treatment involves the use of several medications. If deemed immediately life threatening, acute pulmonary embolism treatment can also involve the surgical removal of the blood clot.
Medications for Pulmonary Embolism
Medications are vital in the management of pulmonary embolisms. Common medications for pulmonary embolisms include anticoagulants, antiplatelet and thrombolytic.
Anticoagulants are the most prescribed medication in the management of pulmonary embolisms. They are immediately used after the detection of a pulmonary embolism. They help to prevent further coagulation of the blood and thus, greatly reduce the risk of suffering from deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolisms. Some common anticoagulants are warfarin and heparin. It is important to discuss with your doctor about these medications.
Antiplatelet, as the name implies, act on platelets in the blood. Platelets are a substance in the blood that directly promotes clotting. Antiplatelet, although not as common as anticoagulants, are sometimes prescribed if a blood clot is present to deter further clotting. The most common type of antiplatelet is acetylsalicylic acid, commonly known as aspirin.
Thrombolytic are different from anticoagulants and anticoagulants. As the later deter further clotting, thrombolytic medication actively seek out the blood clot and work to dissolve it. The most frequently used thrombolytic medication is tissue plasminogen activator or tPA. This drug must be administered as soon as possible as its efficiency drastically decreases 3 to 4 hours after a pulmonary embolism has developed. It is commonly referred to as the best treatment method in the management of pulmonary embolisms today. A common side effect of thrombolytic medications is an increased risk for severe bleeding. It is important to avoid getting trauma to blood vessels and open wounds during thrombolytic treatment.
It is best to discuss with your doctor the best medication for the management of pulmonary embolisms.
Surgical invention is the last resort in the management of a pulmonary embolism. This is due to the added risk surgery imposes as it is an extremely invasive procedure. It is only done to avoid permanent tissue damage in the body and if the embolism present is severe enough to be life threatening. The most common procedure is called an embolectomy. It involves incising into the artery or vein, which then allows for removal. Also, there are two different types of embolectomy’s that involve a catheter: balloon and aspiration. In a balloon embolectomy, a catheter placed inside an artery with a small balloon attached to its anterior end. The balloon is inserted passed the blood clot then expands. As the expanded balloon is withdrawn, the blood clot is subsequently removed. In an aspiration embolectomy, no balloon is needed as the catheter works as a vacuum and uses suction to remove the blood clot. Other surgical procedures involve the insertion of a filter into the inferior vena cava. This filter can catch potential blood clots that have dislodged from other areas of the body and prevent them from entering the arteries of the lungs. Your doctor will determine what is the best surgical method in the management of pulmonary embolisms.
Prognosis of Pulmonary Embolisms
The prognosis of pulmonary embolisms is directly correlated with the time that the patient receives treatment. Receiving treatment immediately is vital in the management of pulmonary embolisms, and can save your life. It is also imperative that constant monitoring of patients being treated in the management of pulmonary embolisms takes place to avoid further complications.