A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that blocks and stops blood flow to an artery in the lung. This happens when a clot in another part of your body (often your leg or arm) moves through the veins to your lung thus restricts blood flow to your lungs, lowers oxygen levels in your lungs and increases blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries.
This venous clot travels all the way into the inferior vena cover, enters into the right upper chamber of the heart (right atrium) then passes through the tricuspid valve into the right lower heart chamber, pulmonary valve then finally blocks the blood flow in pulmonary artery.
How serious is a pulmonary embolism?
With proper diagnosis and treatment, a PE is seldom fatal. However, an untreated PE can be serious, leading to other medical complications, including death. About 33% of people with a pulmonary embolism die before they get a diagnosis and treatment.
A pulmonary embolism can:
How common is a pulmonary embolism?
Pulmonary embolism is one of the most common heart and blood vessel diseases in the world. It ranks third behind heart attack and stroke.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism vary, depending on the severity of the clot. Although most people with a pulmonary embolism experience symptom, some don’t.
Pulmonary embolism symptoms may include:
Pulmonary embolism causes include:
People at risk of developing a PE include those who:
When your heart suddenly stops beating, the condition is known as cardiac arrest, so Cardiac arrest is a problem with your heart’s electrical system. A PE can cause cardiac arrest. And when this happens, the risk of premature death is high.
Pleural effusion is also known as “water on the lungs.” It’s a condition in which fluid builds up in between the layers of pleura, which are thin membranes that surround the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a dry cough, and chest pain.
One of the most serious complications of a PE is a pulmonary infarction — the death of lung tissue. It occurs when oxygenated blood is blocked from reaching lung tissue and keeping it nourished. Typically, it’s a larger clot that causes this condition. Smaller clots can break up and be absorbed by the body.
An arrhythmia is a term to describe any abnormal heart rhythm. An exceedingly fast heartbeat is called tachycardia. A heartbeat that is chaotic and caused by unpredictable quivering of the heart’s upper chambers (atria) is called atrial fibrillation.
It’s critical to treat a PE, because if left untreated, it can lead to pulmonary hypertension. That’s another term for high blood pressure in the arteries in your lungs.
Ways to prevent a pulmonary embolism include: