What is Pulmonary Embolism?

Dr Foram Bhuta

Dr Foram Bhuta

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 10 years of experience

November 15, 2021 Chest Diseases 511 Views

English हिन्दी Bengali

What is the meaning of Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung that occurs when a clot in another part of the body, such as the arm or leg, goes through the bloodstream and gets lodged in the blood vessels of the lung. This clot is known as an embolus. Pulmonary embolism causes restriction of blood flow to the lungs, lowers the level of oxygen in the lungs, and causes an increase in the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries (arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs). Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition and requires prompt treatment. In this article, we will be discussing pulmonary embolisms in detail –

  • What are the causes of Pulmonary Embolism?
  • What are the risk factors of Pulmonary Embolism?
  • What are the symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism?
  • How to diagnose Pulmonary Embolism?
  • What is the treatment for Pulmonary Embolism?
  • What are the complications of Pulmonary Embolism?
  • How to prevent Pulmonary Embolism?
  • What is the cost of Pulmonary Embolism treatments in India?

What are the causes of Pulmonary Embolisms?

Pulmonary embolism is mostly caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a condition in which blood clots are formed in the veins present deep in the body. 

The blood clots causing pulmonary embolism normally begin in the legs or the pelvis (area below the stomach) region.

( Know more about- What is Deep Vein Thrombosis ? )

Blood clots in the deep veins of the body can occur due to a number of reasons like:

  • Injury
  • Inactivity
  • Cancer treatments

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  • Certain medical conditions

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What are the risk factors of Pulmonary Embolism?

Some factors increase the risk of developing pulmonary embolism. These factors include:

  • Heart diseases

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What are the symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism?

The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain

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  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness

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  • Lightheadedness
  • Fever
  • Leg pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Discolored or clammy skin (cyanosis)

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How to diagnose Pulmonary Embolism?

  • Chest x-ray: This is a standard non-invasive test that helps the doctor to view the lungs and heart. However, pulmonary embolism cannot be diagnosed by a chest x-ray.
  • Electrocardiography (ECG): An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart. This test cannot diagnose pulmonary embolism but can rule out other causes of chest pain.
  • Computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA): This is the primary choice for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. It requires the use of intravenous (IV) contrast and cannot be used in cases of kidney diseases.
  • Ventilation/perfusion scan (VQ): This test involves breathing in radioactive material and taking pictures to view the airflow in the lungs, and then injecting a different radioactive material into a vein in the arm and taking more images to see the blood flow in the lungs. This test is usually done when the CTPA test cannot be done, the results of CTPA are inconclusive, or when more testing is required.
  • Magnetic resonance pulmonary angiography (MRPA): It is a test recommended in people who cannot receive a VQ or CTPA.
  • Venography: It is a specialized type of x-ray of the veins in the legs and requires the use of contrast.
  • Pulmonary angiography: It is a rarely used invasive test used for the diagnosis of acute (short-term) PE. A small incision is made by the doctor to guide specialized tools through the veins. Contrast is used to see the blood vessels in the lung.
  • Duplex venous ultrasound: This test uses radio waves for visualizing the blood flow and to check the blood clots in the legs.
  • D-dimer test: This is a blood test done to screen for signs of pulmonary embolism or DVT.

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What is the treatment for Pulmonary Embolisms?

The goal of treatment for pulmonary embolisms is to prevent the blood clot from becoming bigger and to prevent the development of new blood clots.

Prompt treatment is necessary for preventing serious complications and death. The various treatment options for pulmonary embolism include:

Medications:

Blood thinners (anticoagulants):

    • Blood-thinning medications or anticoagulants prevent the enlargement of the existing clots and the formation of new clots.
    • Heparin is a commonly used anticoagulant that can be injected under the skin or injected into a vein (intravenously or IV).
    • Warfarin is a commonly used anticoagulant that can be taken orally.

Clot dissolvers (thrombolytics):

    • These medicines help in dissolving the clots quickly.
    • Since these drugs can lead to severe and sudden bleeding, they are usually used only in life-threatening situations.

Surgery and other procedures:

Clot removal surgery:

    • In case of a life-threatening, very large clot in the lung, the doctor may suggest its surgical removal.
    • The clot removal is done via a thin, flexible tube (catheter) that is threaded through the blood vessels.

Vein filter:

    • A catheter can be used for the positioning of a filter in the inferior vena cava (the body’s main vein) that starts from the legs to the right side of the heart.
    • This filter prevents the clots from going to the lungs.
    • This procedure is usually done in people who cannot take anticoagulant drugs, or in cases of recurrent clot formation despite using anticoagulants.
    • Some filters can be removed when they are no longer required.

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What are the complications of Pulmonary Embolisms?

The complications of pulmonary embolisms include:

  • Pulmonary hypertension (blood pressure in the lungs and right side of the heart is too high)
  • Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (chronic or long-term pulmonary hypertension which may cause right heart failure and death)
  • Death, if timely treatment is not provided( Know more about- What is Thrombolysis? )

How to prevent Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolisms can be prevented by the following methods:

  • Use of blood-thinning medications
  • Wearing compression stockings
  • Elevation of the legs
  • Moving around as much as possible
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes
  • Avoid crossing of legs

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What is the cost of Pulmonary Embolism treatments in India?

The total cost of pulmonary embolisms treatment in India can range from around INR 10,000 to INR 3,00,000. However, the cost of the procedure may vary across different hospitals. There are many big hospitals and specialized doctors in India for pulmonary embolism treatment. The cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, in addition to the expenses of pulmonary embolism treatment, there will be a cost of staying in a hotel, cost of living, and cost of local travel. So, the total cost of pulmonary embolism treatment in India will be around INR 15,000 to INR 3,60,000. 

We hope that we were able to answer all your questions regarding pulmonary embolism through this article.

If you want more information and treatment for pulmonary embolism, you can contact the Vascular surgeon.

We only aim to give you information through the article and do not recommend medication or treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan. 

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