Even if a pulmonary embolism isn’t fatal, it can cause significant damage. Having said that, you may not be familiar with what this particular ailment entails. In lay terms, a pulmonary embolism is (most often) a blood clot that travels from somewhere in your body to your pulmonary artery, which then cuts off oxygen to your lung tissue.
Many of these clots begin in an arm or leg. Then they break free and travel to the lungs. Once it reaches a choke point, it gets lodged and forms the blockage. Both fortunately and unfortunately, a pulmonary embolism comes with certain symptoms, which can also mimic other conditions. This means that in order to properly diagnose this condition, a doctor needs to take the time to conduct thorough examinations and tests.
How do you know if you are at risk?
The older you get, the higher your risk. Beyond that, the following factors also increase your risk:
- Damaged blood vessel
- Long period of inactivity or bedrest
- Blood clotting disorder
- Catheters in veins
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Prior blood clot or pulmonary embolism
- Certain cancers
- Estrogen supplements
If blood clots run in your family, that also increases your risk. A doctor would need to know whether any of these conditions or factors apply to you when performing an examination and considering testing. Failing to take the time needed to determine your risk factors could prevent you from receiving the correct diagnosis, which would further risk your life.
How do you know when to see a doctor?
The most common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include the following:
- Irregular or increased heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Sudden or chronic inability to catch breath
- Sharp, stabbing chest pain — may worsen on breathing in
- Bloody, bloody with mucus, or dry cough
If any of these symptoms is or becomes severe, you need to seek immediate medical attention. If caught in time, the condition is survivable. After providing oxygen therapy and treating you for shock, doctors go to work stopping the growth of the existing clot, breaking it up and preventing additional ones from forming.
Even with life-saving measures, if your doctor failed to diagnose you in a timely manner, you could suffer from long-term effects that interfere with your ability to live a normal life. If a loved one suffered from an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism, you may be mourning his or her death. In either case, if you suspect medical malpractice occurred, you may benefit from gaining an understanding of your rights and legal options.