Pulmonary Embolism : Lung Disease – Symptoms

Definition

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a complication that results from a block in the main artery supplying the lungs, or one of its branches.

Most of the time, the block is due to a blood clot (thrombus) that has detached itself from the deep veins in the legs and traveled all the way to the lungs. Hence, this process is known as venous thromboembolism.

Even under normal conditions, small particles of RBCs, platelets and fibrin aggregate to form microthrombi but they soon get lysed in circulatory system; thus clot formation is prevented.

Under diseased conditions, the microthrombi fail to get lysed. Instead, they grow, break loose from their site of origin and may form an ‘embolus’ that blocks the pulmonary vessels i.e. blood vessels supplying to the lungs. This leads to pulmonary embolism.

Embolism can also occur due to air, amniotic fluid or fat, which block the lumen blood vessels and obstruct blood flow.

PE attributes to 15% of all sudden deaths. Cancer and bedridden patients are at an increased risk for PE.

Symptoms

The common symptoms of pulmonary embolism include chest pain and difficulty in breathing.

(A) Common symptoms and signs of PE include

  • Sudden onset shortness of breath (Dyspnea) or wheezing
  • Rapid breathing ( Tachypnea )
  • New onset arrhythmia
  • Painful respiration
  • Temporary loss of consciousness (Syncope)
  • Chest pain that increasingly worsens
  • Back pain, shoulder pain, upper abdominal pain
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Fever in 14% cases

(B) In severe situations there can be additional symptoms occur such as

  • Bluish tinge on fingers and lips (cyanosis) due to inadequate circulation
  • Leg swelling
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Collapse /Sudden death

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