Mariah Rossi and Dr. Emran of Simple Health Radio
On this episode of Simple Health Radio, Dr. Emran talks about Pulmonary Embolism which is also called a “PE”. A PE is a blood clot in one of the arteries of the lung. This is a life-threatening condition that is rising in frequency. In order to understand what a Pulmonary Embolism is we must first understand the anatomy of the heart and lungs.
The heart’s job is to pump blood. Arteries take blood away from the heart while veins bring blood to the heart. In veins, there are valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward. Arteries have a pulse, but veins do not. Think of arteries as an active pump with a regular heartbeat. Think of veins as a slow-moving river with a lot of twists and turns.
When a PE occurs, the artery that goes from the heart to the lungs is blocked immediately. The blood cannot flow past the blockage and oxygen cannot be exchanged. This is a sudden event and people become very sick in a short amount of time.
People come into the ER with severe chest pain, a high pulse, or become blue in the face. A PE is not a heart attack because the blood clot is outside of the heart and there is no damage to the heart muscle itself. Where does the blood clot actually come from? The #1 source of the blood clot is in the calf.
If you look at someone’s leg with a blood clot it may be swollen and shiny, it is also very painful. A blood clot in the vein is called a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. When this blood clot breaks off and travels toward the heart, it ends up in the narrowest part of the artery before it can reach the lungs. That is where PE occurs.
A PE is diagnosed by CT scans, an ultrasound of the legs, an angiogram, or an MRI. These can only be performed in the ER or hospital.
What are some of the risk factors that can cause a DVT or a PE? The most common causes include surgery, broken bones, sitting for prolonged periods, long-distance travel, cancer, pregnancy, smoking, and hormone usage. In the hospital, people are given compression socks and are encouraged to walk as much as possible to prevent PE.
How are blood clots treated? Treatment includes blood thinners called Anticoagulants. Anticoagulants can be pills or injections. These medications help to keep the blood flowing properly and reduce the risk of clots developing throughout the body. However, these medications have side effects which can include bruising, spontaneous bleeding, and stroke which can be life-threatening.
Those who have a blood clot once will have a 50% risk of having them in the future. If people have a high risk, they may have an IVC filter placed to reduce blood clots.
If you have any concerns about a possible blood clot or questions about your health, go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
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