What is a Pulmonary Embolism
The term pulmonary embolism is derived from the word pulmonary meaning lungs, and the word embolism which is a clot. So based on that one can easily conclude that a pulmonary embolism is a clot in the lungs, which restricts blood flow to part of the lung impairing blood flow, gas exchange and ultimately can lead to death of lung tissue. There are several different terms that are used to describe pulmonary embolism such as lung embolism, lung clot, pulmonary clot, etc.
How is a Pulmonary Embolism Formed
It is rare that a embolie forms within the lungs, usually the embolie (clot) forms in one of the body’s veins and these clots are called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It is these clots called deep vein thrombosis that causes pulmonary embolism, and this is because tiny fragments break off of these deep vein clots. Once a fragment breaks off the clot it then travels through the circulatory system and eventually loges itself in a tiny blood vessel. It could loge in a coronary vessel leading to a heart attack, or in a vessel within the brain resulting in a stroke, or in our case can loge itself in one of the small pulmonary vessels. Once the clot fragment blocks the pulmonary vessel it stops gas exchange in the part of the lung supplied by that blood vessel, and if the blood flow is completely blocked by the pulmonary embolism then the lung tissue could die.
Pulmonary Embolism Treatment
The treatment for a pulmonary embolism is usually done with anticoagulant drugs such as coumadin (Warfarin), Lovenox (enoxaparin). These drugs alter the bloods ability to clot, and ultimately they increase the length of time it takes for the blood to clot. This thus reduces the chances of another clot forming, and really these drugs are more for prevention of a pulmonary embolism. The real drugs that are used to treat lung embolisms are “clot busters” also know as thrombolytics. This class of drug actually dissolves the pulmonary embolism and the deep vein thrombosis, thus reducing chances of the patient throwing another pulmonary embolism.
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