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Pulmonary Embolism – Five Questions To Discuss With Your Doctor

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Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a serious lung condition wherein one of the main arteries to the lung gets blocked by any mass of material, such as an air bubble, a large speck of fat, and/or part of a tumor or blood clot coming from elsewhere in the body, most commonly, a blood clot from the deep veins of the legs.

1. What has caused my pulmonary embolism?

PE can be caused if you have a history of forming blood clots (hypercoagulability). It is also possible that your PE may have been caused by deep vein thrombosis of the legs. Your chances of coming down with PE increase if you stay immobile for long periods of time, travel extensively, have damaged walls of veins, and have anomalous blood flow. It is also possible that your PE could have been brought on by a trauma/injury, obesity, any recent surgery or an underlying cardiac condition. Your diagnostic reports will tell you of your cause.

2. What symptoms besides the chest pain and coughing am I likely to experience?
You could experience:
• Dyspnoea (shortness of breath)
• Wheezing
• Cyanosis (bluish skin)
• Low pulse rate
• Tachypnea (high heart rate)
• Coughing with blood
• Dizziness
• Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats)
• Swelling of legs
• Unstable blood circulation
• Collapse
• Low grade fever
• Possibility of death

3. Is pulmonary embolism infectious?

No, pulmonary embolism is not a contagious condition because of the underlying causes (cited above) that are responsible for its occurrence.

4. How long will I take to recover from pulmonary embolism?

The recovery depends upon the extent of lung damage, the presence of other underlying medical conditions, availability and follow-up of treatment, body response and the severity of the PE attack. People with PEs are usually hospitalized for several days until their blood can be adequately thinned or the blocking material removed. If it is a blood clot that has blocked the lung artery, then the patients are maintained on blood thinning medication for six months or longer.

5. What diagnostic tests will I have to take to confirm my condition apart from the physical examination and the chest X-ray I have undergone?

Any or a combination of the following diagnostic tests could be used to reach a confirming decision apart from the ones you have taken. The decision of which tests to take depends upon your doctor, the diagnostic reports, physical examination, and your medical history. In general the popular diagnostic tests are:
• ECG or electrocardiograph is a non-invasive test to check the pressure or strain on the right side of your heart.
• CT scan with contrast dyes may be used to see the pulmonary arteries, their condition, the location of the embolism, clot size and material, etc. It also helps during angiography.
• Ventilation perfusion scan uses chemicals to identify inhaled air into the lungs and match it with blood flow in the arteries and see if there is lack of blood flow in the lung tissues
• Venous Doppler study checks on the blood clotting status in your legs
• Pulmonary angiogram is the final decisive but invasive test that confirms the presence and location of clot(s) in the legs.
• D-dimer blood test identifies one of the breakdown products of blood clots and can indicate if PE is likely to occur. However, it is not a definitive test.
• Blood tests giving the complete blood counts and the electrolytes may also be done


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman (Publisher: Rupa & Co.) and the upcoming Rev Up Your Life! (Publisher: Hay House India). She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Link: http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com and http://www.footstrike.wordpress.com

Add a Comment2 Comments

Dear Midwife of Changes,

Thank you for taking the time to read the write-up and write back and helping your friend:) I hope that she heals fast.

Best regards,


November 14, 2011 - 11:48pm

Great info. I am a practitioner (women's health). A dear friend (much younger than I) was just diagnosed with this. I will pass it along to her. Thanks!

November 14, 2011 - 6:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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