Know How to Detect Pulmonary Embolism


Pulmonary embolism is an ailment where a blood clot gets transported to the arteries of the lungs. The clot develops in some other part of the body and moves to the lungs causing minor to major blockages. It may affect multiple arteries inducing partial or complete damage to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism can be catalyzed by cancer, obesity, old age, and heredity.

Often, pulmonary embolism symptoms are the outcome of deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis refers to the establishment of a blood clot in the veins lying deep inside the body particularly in the legs. At times, this clot gets severed from the parent vein and traverses through the body to reach the lungs obstructing the flow of blood. This complicated condition is known as pulmonary embolism.

A major clot can lead to deprivation of oxygen to the lungs resulting in death. It, therefore, becomes necessary to be aware of the symptoms of this condition that remains undetected in most cases. It can prove fatal if neglected. The following are the major pulmonary embolism symptoms one should know about:

  • Shortness of breath – Though the symptoms vary according to the characteristics of the clot, the most common one is shortness of breath. This pulmonary embolism symptom often leads to difficulty in breathing and discomfort.
  • Chest pain – Another prominent pulmonary embolism symptom is chest pain which may be mild or severe. It is abrupt and is magnified by the act of breathing.
  • Tachypnea – Pulmonary embolism is also characterized by hasty breathing or tachypnea. This involves breathing more than 20 times in a minute.
  • Blood stains in a cough – Extreme coughing comprising of blood-stained mucus can be another common pulmonary embolism symptom. This condition is called hemoptysis, and it can lead to choking.
  • Loss of consciousness – Pulmonary embolism results in low blood pressure. An individual might faint because the brain is not able to receive the right amount of oxygen.
  • Abnormal increase in the heartbeat – When the heart contracts at an abnormally high rate, for reasons other than physical activity, it can be a cause for concern. Irregularities in the heartbeat are, hence, troublesome.
  • Seizures – A person may also suffer from seizures as a consequence of pulmonary embolism. Seizures are mostly caused by epilepsy. However, if they occur along with the above-mentioned pulmonary embolism symptoms, they can hint towards this lung disease.
  • Skin discoloration – Due to a decreased flow of blood followed by hypoxia, the skin can turn to bluish purple from its natural color. It may affect the entire body in general or a specific limb in particular.
  • Lack of awareness – An individual may sometimes face serious confusion regarding the state of mind. There can be a loss of awareness of the current situation and experience of hallucinations.
  • Swelling in the legs – A proactive step can be to look for the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. These include swelling and redness in the legs, patches of discolored skin, and pain in the pelvic region. These symptoms are commonly found in the calf area.

The major symptoms are sometimes accompanied by light fever. These can be diagnosed using some techniques such as:

  • Pulmonary angiography – This is the principal test used to detect the pulmonary embolism symptoms. It helps in getting an image of the arteries and veins of the lungs. It is highly preferred because it is the least intrusive method.
  • Blood tests – The D-dimer test helps in diagnosing the formation of a blood clot. TT and PT tests evaluate the process of coagulation. There are tests to determine the erythrocyte sedimentation rate as well.
  • ECG – ECG or electrocardiography determines whether or not chest pain is caused by reasons other than pulmonary embolism.
  • Ventilation/perfusion scan – The ventilation part finds out the flow of air within the lungs, while the perfusion part determines the passage of blood. An abnormality in the perfusion points toward the development of a blood clot.
  • X-ray and diagnostic sonography – An X-ray of the chest can check whether the basis for shortness of breath is a pulmonary embolism symptom. Diagnostic sonography, moreover, helps in discovering a possible clot in the veins of the legs. It is a test for deep vein thrombosis.

Pulmonary embolism can be treated using anticoagulants and thrombolysis. At times, surgery may also have to be conducted to remove a clot or to position inferior vena cava filters. It is important to get cured for the cause of the problem which is deep vein thrombosis. In this case, performing regular exercises of the legs becomes extremely essential.

This ailment may turn out to be a lifelong problem. An advanced stage of this is lethal and can cause immediate death. Therefore, it should be prevented using necessary precautions. If you can associate with a majority of these symptoms, it is high time to visit a specialist.