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Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism is the blockage of one or more of the lung arteries by, most often, a blood clot. This clot generally originates from large veins within the legs or pelvis. The clot creates blockage while traveling through the veins of the body through the right side of the heart and gets lodged in the lung blood vessels.

Generally, a small pulmonary embolism causes no symptoms. As they increase in size, they generally cause shortness of breath or chest pain. The onset of symptoms can be quite abrupt. In the case of leg vein inflammation, symptoms such as tenderness and swelling of the legs, may accompany the shortness of breath. When lung tissue is injured, sharp chest pain when taking a deep breath or coughing up blood may be the first signal of distress. In addition, heart rates increase and the patient will commonly run a low-grade fever.

Initial diagnosis is generally confirmed through a lung scan, which will tell the doctor if blood flow to an area or areas of the lung has been cut off.

The treatment for pulmonary embolism is hospitalization. A blood thinner will be prescribed and bed rest is generally ordered. For larger clots, medications which are designed to dissolve blood clots may be given. However, this can be associated with significant side effects, including increased risk of bleeding.

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