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Frequently asked questions related to pulmonary embolism (blood clots)

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot is formed (usually in a vein in a leg) and travels to the lung causing a blockage in the lung artery. It is often a complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot or clots form in the deep veins of the body (often the legs). The clot(s) travel in the bloodstream to other parts of the body-causing blockage.

PE is a very serious condition and can cause damage such as lack of oxygen in the blood, damage to the lung, other organ damage and even death if it is not diagnosed and treated immediately. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, approximately 300,000 to 600,000 people suffer from PE and DVT annually. Of those, 30 percent will die if left untreated. For many, that means treatment within the first few hours of the embolism.

Who is at risk of PE?

Anyone can develop a blood clot that turns into PE. However, there are certain conditions that may put a person at greater risk, such as those suffering from heart disease, cancer or those with a family history of clotting disorders. In addition, recent surgery or long periods of immobility can heighten the risk of clots. Some other behaviors that may put a person at risk include smoking, supplemental estrogen (like birth control bills or hormone replacement), pregnancy and obesity.

What are the signs of PE?

Pulmonary embolism can have different signs and symptoms related to the embolism or DVT. Some signs may include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing (including shortness of breath)
  • Coughing (including coughing up blood)
  • Chest pain, or an irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling, pain or tenderness in the leg
  • Red or discolored skin and/or warmth in the leg where swollen

Some people may also experience rapid breathing, sweating, light-headedness, loss of consciousness or anxiety.

What treatment options are available for PE?

Typically, blood thinners (anticoagulants) are used first to stop the clot from getting larger and to prevent new clots from forming. The blood thinners may be taken orally or intravenously (or both) and the length of treatment may vary. In life-threatening situations, thrombolytics may be used to dissolve the blood clot or it may be removed surgically in very serious situations. A vein filter may also be used to stop clots from traveling to the lungs.

What are the signs of negligent treatment?

PE can be difficult to diagnose and some signs may present themselves like other medical conditions. Healthcare professionals must run a battery of tests to ensure they are not making the incorrect diagnosis. Unfortunately, this does not always occur and PE or DVT can be misdiagnosed or mistreated, which may have disastrous results. Some common signs of negligence include:

  • Failure to recognize the symptoms of PE
  • Failure to perform the right tests to diagnose PE
  • Failure to treat the correct condition or misdiagnosis of the condition
  • Failure to monitor the emergency room

If negligence did occur, the injured patient or his or her family members may have a claim for medical malpractice against the party or parties responsible. Contact an attorney at Jeffries, Kube, Forrest & Monteleone Co. L.P.A. to discuss what occurred. Our attorneys are experienced in injury claims. We can investigate your case, determine if negligence occurred and help you hold the right people accountable for your injuries.

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