Overview on pulmonary embolism

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Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung that develops if a clot in another body part flows via the bloodstream and ends up lodged in the lung blood vessels. This results to limited blood flow to the lungs, reduced oxygen levels and elevated pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

What are the causes of pulmonary embolism?

It is important to note that pulmonary embolism might occur:

  • If blood accumulates in a certain body part. The buildup of blood typically occurs after prolonged periods of inactivity such as bed rest or after surgery.
    Sitting for extended periods of time is one of the risk factors for pulmonary embolism.
  • If the veins are damaged from a fracture or surgery
  • From a medical condition such as heart disease or stroke
  • If the clotting factors in the blood are elevated or lowered. In case there is elevated clotting factors, it can occur in certain forms of cancer or in some women under hormone replacement therapy or using birth control pills. Low clotting factors might occur from hereditary conditions

Who are at risk for a blood clot?

Individuals who are at risk for developing a blood clot include those who:

  • Have been inactive or immobile for extended periods of time from bed rest or surgery
  • Have a family or personal history of a blood clotting condition such a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
  • Sitting for extended periods of time
  • Have a history of cancer or under chemotherapy

Am I at risk for pulmonary embolism?

Those who are at risk for pulmonary embolism include:

  • Individuals who have been inactive for extended periods of time while travelling via plane, train or vehicle.
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A history of heart failure or stroke
  • Recent trauma or damage to the vein, possibly after a surgical procedure, fracture or varicose veins
  • Placement of central venous catheters throughout the leg or arm
  • Using birth control pills or hormonal replacement therapy
  • Being pregnant or given birth in the previous 6 weeks

If an individual has any of these risk factors and a blood clot is present, a doctor must be consulted so that the appropriate steps can be taken to lower the personal risk.

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