September 01, 2012

Blood clots in the lungs

Prompt treatment may be lifesaving

Pulmonary embolism

After your hip replacement surgery, it took a couple of days longer than expected before you could leave the hospital. But, while discussing the rehabilitation plan with your physical therapist, you suddenly felt short of breath. Inhaling was painful.

The next thing you remember was being told you had blood clots in your lungs and that treatment was under way.

Pulmonary embolism occurs when critical blood flow to lung tissue is cut off by a blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs. Usually, the blockage is due to blood clot fragments (emboli) from elsewhere that traveled through the bloodstream to your lungs. Without prompt recognition and treatment, pulmonary embolism can be fatal.

Knowing the signs and symptoms and getting prompt medical treatment can be lifesaving.

Breakaway trouble

Normally, blood circulates freely through your arteries and veins. With each heartbeat, blood is pumped from the right side of your heart to your lungs, where it's infused with oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood is then circulated to your heart's left side and pumped out to the rest of your body.

However, that smooth circulation of blood can be jeopardized by the formation of a blood clot (thrombus). Most often, these potentially dangerous clots form in the large veins of the leg or pelvis that are farthest from the skin's surface — this is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Clots in the legs or pelvis may produce no signs or symptoms and go unnoticed. Common symptoms, if they occur, include redness, swelling...