People who are diagnosed with various cancers including mesothelioma are more likely to develop blood clots because these individuals can have more platelets or cells that are likely to cause the blood to clot in the person’s blood as opposed to how clotting normally occurs. Additionally, these individuals might be debilitated and not get up or around enough. In many blood cases, blood cases end up developing in the legs and result in the feet and legs becoming tender, swollen, and red. Blood clots can be serious because after they happen, they can end up moving through the blood to other organs including the brain, lungs, or heart based on where the clot is located. If a clot breaks off from a location in the legs, the clot can end up traveling to the lung and result in a pulmonary embolism. This type of blockage of the lung can occur to the entire lung or one of its branches. Pulmonary embolisms can prove fatal, which is why it is critical to both identify and treat blood clots in extremities as quickly as possible.
If a clot is not fatal, a pulmonary embolism often results in chest pain, which is described as worse when a person breathes deeply and/or the sudden onset to the point that it becomes difficult for a person to move around. Blood clots are often treated with medications that cause the blood to become thin or anticoagulated and as a result, lower the possibility that a clot will develop or prevent a clot from embolizing or breaking off and moving towards a person’s lung.
Heparin or a derivative is an injectable medication that is first used then the digestion of oral coumadin. While a person is on coumadin, the individual requires blood tests to make sure that individual receives an adequate amount of the medication. Due to the risk of blood clots, you and your medical team should promptly report any symptoms of swelling in a person’s feet or legs or the sudden onset of chest pain to promptly contact your physician.
The Two Types of Medical Conditions that Cause Clots
The two types of medical conditions known to cause clots include:
- Deep vein thrombosis, is clotting of the blood located in a deep vein. This is often found in one or more veins of the pelvis or leg.
- Pulmonary embolism happens when deep vein thrombosis breaks from its initial site in a vein and travels to the bloodstream in the lungs. Blood clots that form in a blood vessel in the location of the body, break off and travel to another part of the body referred to as an embolus. When a blood vessel is blocked by an embolus, it is referred to as an embolism. The body’s circulatory system includes its arteries, hearts, veins, and capillaries. Pumping blood requires substantial force to move blood from the heart to the arteries. From this spot, blood travels to the capillaries. Blood then returns to the heart through the veins. As blood travels through the veins and back to the heart, blood flow slows.
The Causes of Pulmonary Embolisms
Pulmonary embolisms happen when material becomes wedged into an artery in an individual’s lungs. Blood costs most often arise from the deep veins located in a person’s legs. In many situations, multiple clots arise during pulmonary embolisms. The section of lungs served by each blocked artery is deprived of oxygen and can sometimes even die, which is referred to as a pulmonary infarction. This condition makes it more challenging for a person’s lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of that individual’s body.
Besides clots caused by blood, blockages in the blood vessels can be caused by other materials as well including:
- If air enters circulation, the air can end up occluding an artery. Air embolisms can result from any type of surgical procedure or can arise when deep-sea drivers try to ascend too quickly.
- Amniotic fluid can enter the circulatory system during challenging childbirth which can result in a pulmonary embolism. Embolisms caused by amniotic fluid can endanger a person’s life.
- Fat embolisms, happen if sections of fat cells enter a person’s blood circulation. Fat can end up lodging in the pulmonary circulation. The most common reason why fat embolism happens is a fracture of the long bones or pelvis because the marrow located in these bones contain a great deal of fat.
- When cancer cells enter circulation, they can end up occluding pulmonary vessels. This is often an end-stage result of cancer.
The Risk of Developing a Pulmonary Embolism
Some of the types of people who are at the greatest risk of ending up with pulmonary embolisms include individuals who have not been active or mobile for an extended period, have inherited conditions like blood clotting disorders or factor V Leiden, receive surgery or have broken bones, and/or have cancer.
Some of the other factors that pose a greater risk of a pulmonary embolism include being overweight, smoking, being pregnant, taking birth control medication, having various diseases including paralysis, high blood pressure, and stroke, having had a recent vein injury, having had had substantial burns or fractures, and being over the age of 60.
If a person has any of these factors that place them in danger of a blood clot, the individual should meet with medical professionals so the appropriate steps can be taken to reduce the chances that the individual will experience an embolism.
The Seriousness of Pulmonary Embolisms
Pulmonary embolisms are serious medical conditions that can lead to heart failure, cause low levels of oxygen in a person’s blood, damage to other organs in the body due to lack of oxygen, result in death if a blood clot gets too large or multiple blood clots exist, result in permanent damage of the lung.
The Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism
The various symptoms of a pulmonary embolism can change based on the person involved as well as the severity of the blood clot. Some symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include;
- Bluish skin
- Chest pain
- Coughing either with or without blood
- Difficulty with breathing
- Increased warm in a painful or swollen leg
- Irregular beat of the heart
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Skin discoloration on the impacted leg
- Sweating skin
- Swelling of the leg or legs
- Tenderness or pain in the leg
A person should promptly see a medical professional if that individual experiences any of these symptoms. In some situations, a person can have none of these symptoms but still have a pulmonary embolism.
Preventing clots in the deep veins found in your legs can help to avoid pulmonary embolisms. Consequently, most medical facilities take aggressive measures to avoid clots. Some of the most common steps taken by hospitals include:
- Anticoagulants or blood thinners are routinely given to individuals who are at risk of blood clots both before and after operations.
- Compression stockings work by squeezing a person’s legs and helping the individual’s veins as well as leg muscles more efficiently move blood.
- Raising your legs when possible including the night is a common and successful way of reducing the risk of clots. Raise the bottom of your bed where your feet go by several inches through the use of objects like books or blocks.
- Moving as soon as you can after surgery helps to avoid pulmonary embolisms. This also helps to increase your recovery time. This is one of the most common reasons why your nurse or medical team will push you to get up after surgery.
- Pneumatic compression relies on the calf or thigh-high cuffs that inflate with air as well as deflate every few minutes to massage as well as squeeze your leg’s veins and improve blood flow.
How You Can Prevent Blood Clots When Traveling
The chance of blood clots developing while you travel is low, but the possibility increases as the length of your trip does. If you have risk factors for blood clots and are worried about travel, you should speak with your physician. Some things you can do to prevent blood clots while traveling include:
- Consume a sufficient amount of fluids. Water is the best liquid you can consume to avoid dehydration. You should also avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
- Take breaks from sitting. You should move around the airplane cabin once an hour or so. If you are driving, you should stop every so often and move around the vehicle several times.
- Make sure to flex your ankles every half an hour.
- Your physician might recommend support stockings to promote circulation
Diagnosis and Testing of Pulmonary Embolisms
A pulmonary embolism is determined based on a person’s medical history as well as a physical exam and the results of any tests conducted on the individual. Some of the tests most commonly utilized to determine the presence of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Duplex ultrasounds are performed to assess both blood flow and the structure of blood vessels in a person’s legs.
- Blood tests are performed to examine the blood’s ability to clot. Blood tests include the “D-dimer” level. Some of the other blood work utilized when testing for disorders that can contribute to abnormal blood clotting. Aerial blood gasses can be examined to determine how much oxygen is present in a person’s blood.
- Chest x-rays involve an assessment of a person’s heart and lungs. These x-rays reveal details about the contour, shape, and size of vital organs including the lung, heart, bronchi, arteries, and the mediastinum or section of the chest separating the lungs.
- Electrocardiograms are one of the most basic and fastest tests used to study the heart. Electrodes are small patches that are positioned at certain spots on a person’s body including arms, chest, and legs. Electrodes are connected to EKG machines through wires.
- Magnetic resonance imaging is a type of test that relies on a mixture of radio frequencies, magnetic fields, and a computer to create detailed imagery of both organs and structures within the body.
- Lung perfusion scans
- Computed tomography (CT) scans are a type of imaging that relies on x-rays and a computer to create imagery of a body. These scans reveal details of a person’s fat, muscles, organs, and bones. Scans of this kind involving contrast improve the image of blood vessels found in a person’s lungs. Contrast is a type of dye placed into a vein that results in tissues or organs under examination appearing more visible in studies.
- Pulmonary angiography is an x-ray of the blood vessels that are used to assess conditions including aneurysms, stenosis, and/or blockages. Dye is placed through a thin tube that is placed in an artery. The dye makes blood vessels appear on x-rays.
- Ultrasound is the best and most trusted method of diagnosing deep vein thrombosis. These tests are simple and widely available. These tests can be performed to measure “D-dimers”, which indicate active and/or recent clotting. If a test is negative, it is not likely that you have experienced deep vein thrombosis.
- Ventilation-perfusion scans. For these tests, a small portion of radioactive material is used to assess a person’s lungs. Ventilation scans assess the movement of air both into as well as out of a person’s bronchi as well as bronchioles. Perfusion scans assess how blood flows in a person’s lungs.
The Management and Treatment of Pulmonary Embolisms
The treatment of pulmonary embolisms is often given at medical facilities. These conditions can be treated with medications as well as procedures and therapists. The primary goal of these treatments is to prevent the blood clot from growing and/or preventing the formation of any new blood clots.
Treatment involves anticoagulation medications including blood thinners, which decrease the body’s clot functioning. These treatments are utilized to prevent blood clots from increasing in size and preventing the formation of clots. Blood thinners are given as an injection, intravenously, or as pills. Consider the following details:
- Heparin is given through an injection or a quick-acting IV tube
- Thrombolytics are medications that are utilized to both dissolve and treat clots in the blood. These medications, however, are only used in life-threatening situations.
- Various medications including apixaban, dabigatran etexilate, rivaroxaban, and warfarin are provided in pill form and consumed by mouth
- Vena cava filters are positioned inside of a vein referred to as the inferior vena cafe. These filters catch clots before traveling to a person’s lungs and preventing pulmonary embolisms
How Pulmonary Embolisms Can Be Prevented
Some of the helpful steps that a person can take to prevent a pulmonary embolism include:
- Avoiding smoking
- Eating a healthy diet and consuming a sufficient amount of fluids
- Exercising on a routine basis
- Following up with your medical provider
- Getting out of bed and being as mobile as possible after a surgery
- Make sure to move your lower limbs while sitting during extended periods of travel
- Staying away from alcohol and caffeine
If you or a loved one has a medical history involving deep vein thrombosis or a related condition, you, fortunately, can take some critical steps to avoid the formation of blood clots. One good step is visiting a medical provider to receive routine checkups and utilize any prevention methods recommended by the medical professional.
The Various Complications Associated with Pulmonary Embolisms
Pulmonary embolisms can result in a lack of blood flow that results in damage to lung tissue. This condition can cause low blood oxygen levels that harm other organs in a person’s body as well. Pulmonary embolisms can result in substantial life-threatening issues.
Treating a pulmonary embolism frequently involves anticoagulation medications or blood thinners. These medications can place you at risk for excessive bleeding if they thin your blood too much. Bleeding is considered excessive if the bleeding will not stop after ten minutes of pressure is applied.
Some signs that you are experiencing digestive bleeding include bright red vomiting resembling coffee ground, bright red blood in your bowel movements, and/or abdominal pain.
Some of the most common signs of bleeding in the brain include substantial headaches, changes to a person’s vision, loss of movement in a person’s appendages, and/or memory loss.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should promptly receive medical treatment.
What Steps You Should Take After a Pulmonary Embolism
Individuals with deep vein thrombosis or similar conditions are at an elevated risk for having a recurrence of the condition. Both during as well as following treatment, you should make sure to take steps to prevent these conditions. Some of these steps include remaining aware of the body and examining your legs for any symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. You should also make sure to receive routine checkups.
The Relationship Between Birth Control and Embolisms
Studies have shown that some types of birth control can end up increasing the chance of blood clots, which can result in pulmonary embolisms. The overall risk of pulmonary embolisms is low and higher for pregnant women than for nonpregnant women who consume hormonal contraceptives.