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What is a pulmonary embolism?

Residents of California may know that pulmonary embolism is caused by a blot clot that may become lodged in the pulmonary arteries and restrict blood flow to the lungs and ultimately decrease the blood's oxygen levels. Potentially, this carries a risk to other organs. Pulmonary embolism is considered a life-threatening occurrence and requires emergency treatment.

Pulmonary embolism symptoms may include coughing, chest pain extending into the arm, neck and jaw, rapid breathing and heart rate and weak pulse. Shortness of breath is a hallmark of the disease. Pulmonary embolism may also cause anxiety, restlessness and hemoptysis. It usually begins in the extremities and progresses to other parts of the body. Diagnostic tests may include X-ray, venography, venous doppler, CT scan, electrocardiogram, pulmonary angiogram or MRI among others. Treatments may include blood thinners and clot dissolvers. If blood flow to the heart or lungs is restricted, surgery may be required.

Pulmonary embolism results most often from deep vein thrombosis where blood clots form in the extremities. Risk factors associated with deep vein thrombosis include recent surgery, preexisting DVT, leg or hip fracture or a family history. Other predisposing factors include obesity, cancer, prior myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident or a sedentary lifestyle.

When a physician fails to diagnose a pulmonary embolism, the patient's wrongful death may result. As with other situations, an early diagnosis improves the patient's prognosis. In addition, not being alert for pulmonary embolism after major surgery or in light of other risk factors reduces the patient's chance of survival. If a family member dies as a result of the doctor's negligence, an attorney may offer insight into options the family has to recover damages through a medical malpractice suit.

Source: Healthline, "Pulmonary Embolism", Brian Krans, August 02, 2012

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