Embolism

EMBOLISM pulmonary

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview

Healthy circulation of blood is essential. Without it, your organs and cells will not receive the oxygen they need in order to continue functioning. Blood also transports hormones to their target cells. It carries digested nutrients and also clears away metabolic wastes. Any condition that impedes blood flow can have severe consequences.

There can be many factors that impair blood flow such as hardening of arteries or abnormal vascular arrangements such as arteriovenous malformations. Another possible reason for reduced blood flow could be a physical blockage in the arteries or veins. This could be in the form of plaque building up over time or it could even be a blood clot. Arteries can even become blocked by material originating in another part of the body that was carried along by the blood.

What Is Embolism?

EMBOLISM airAn embolus is any object or particle carried along by the blood which has the potential to block or obstruct an artery, vein or capillary. Examples of such materials include blood clots and fat globules. A blood clot originating in a blood vessel in one part of the body can be swept along by the blood moving past it. For the most part, it may be able to pass through blood vessels. However, at some point of time, it is likely to encounter a passage to narrow to pass through and it becomes firmly lodged there, cutting off the flow of blood through that blood vessel. This phenomenon is known as ‘embolism’ and it can have severe consequences. It can occur suddenly and unexpectedly without any prior warning signs.

Apart from blood clots, an embolism can also be caused by air bubbles, fat globules or small amounts of amniotic fluid. When a blood clot is the source of obstruction, as in the example given above, the condition is referred to as thromboembolism. One of the most severe forms of embolism occurs when such an obstruction arises in an artery supplying the lungs. This is known as pulmonary embolism and it can even be fatal. Fortunately, it can be successfully resolved with prompt medical intervention.

What Are The Different Types Of Embolism?

EMBOLISM pulmonaryAny case of embolism can be classified based on the nature of the material that the embolus is made up of. For instance:

  • Thromboembolism: This occurs when the obstruction is created by a blood clot. The clot itself would usually have originated in another blood vessel elsewhere in the body, eventually becoming dislodged and getting carried along by the blood.
  • Air embolism: In such instances, arteries or veins become blocked by air bubbles. This is also known as a gas embolism. Such events are very rare but they can occur if an injection is administered without taking care to clear out air bubbles from the syringe beforehand. Air can even enter blood vessels during surgery. But surgeons are usually aware of this possibility and will take care to prevent it or rectify it if it does occur.
  • Fat embolism: This can happen when you suffer an injury that damages bone and allows fatty matter from the interior of the bone to escape into the bloodstream. Alternatively, you may have atherosclerosis, a condition in which arteries become progressively narrowed due to the build-up of a cholesterol plaque within them. Sections of this plaque can become detached, forming emboli. Because fat globules are pliant, they may not cause complete occlusion of the blood vessel.
  • Amniotic fluid embolism:  During gestation, the fetus is surrounded by amniotic fluid. During childbirth or even soon afterward, it is quite possible for some amount of this fluid along with fetal cells to enter the mother’s bloodstream. This condition is rare but it can be fatal.

Other types of embolism are recognized based on the organ directly affected. For instance, pulmonary embolism usually involves obstruction of a pulmonary artery by a blood clot. Similarly, renal embolism involves the kidneys and a brain embolism can take the form of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

A special type of embolism is one known as a paradoxical embolism. Normally venous blood does not directly interact with arterial blood. The heart receives blood from the veins. This blood must then travel to the lungs where it is infused with oxygen. Upon returning to the heart from the lungs, this oxygenated blood is pumped into the arterial system. Sometimes, a hole in the septum of the heart allows a clot present in venous blood to be transferred directly into the other side of the heart where it mixes with oxygenated blood. The reverse is also possible. This is known as a paradoxical embolism.

What Causes An Embolism?

Any condition that predisposes you to clot formation can be a risk factor for thromboembolism. Examples include any condition involving impaired circulation or one that causes damage to the walls of blood vessels. One of the main causes of pulmonary embolism is deep vein thrombosis wherein blood clots arise within one of the deep veins of the body. Chunks of the clot may break away and float along until they get jammed into a vein or artery.

More risk factors for thromboembolism are laid out below:

  • Deep vein thrombosis.
  • Damage to the walls of the veins. This can happen when you have a habit of smoking.
  • Prolonged bed rest or immobility.
  • Having a family history of blood clots.
  • History of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Trauma. This can include surgical trauma as well.
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • Having a blood clotting disorder.
  • Dehydration.
  • Heart disease.
  • Having a hole in the septum of the heart.
  • Lung disease.
  • Vasculitis.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Hughes syndrome.
  • Obesity.
  • Taking oral contraceptives.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Having varicose veins.
  • Taking chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Air embolism can be caused by any procedure that introduces air into blood vessels. Details on potential causes for air embolism appear below:

  • Failing to clear air from a syringe or an intravenous tube before administering it.
  • Air entering blood vessels during surgery.
  • Surfacing too quickly from depths when scuba diving. This causes nitrogen bubbles to form in the blood.
  • Air entering blood vessels as a result of injuries from explosions.
  • Artificial respiratory support.

Another form of embolism develops when a blood vessel gets blocked by fatty substances or cholesterol. Risk factors are discussed below:

  • Trauma to the bones.
  • Having atherosclerosis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Embolism?

The specific nature of symptoms and the rate of onset will depend on the degree of occlusion caused by the embolus, the blood vessels involved and the organ that has been impacted by the event. Some typical signs of pulmonary embolism are listed below:

  • Feeling short of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Spike in heartbeat.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded.

Among all of your organs, your brain has the largest requirement for oxygen. When an embolus becomes lodged in an artery leading to the brain, the section of nervous tissue that it services quickly becomes starved of oxygen. This leads to neurological symptoms such as:

  • Headache.
  • Double vision or blurring of vision.
  • Slurring of speech.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Clumsy gait.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Drooping face muscles.
  • Confusion.

What Are Some Likely Complications?

A stroke can leave the patient with permanent brain damage. He or she may even become paralysed. In severe cases, the patient could die. Similarly, a pulmonary embolism can lead to heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest and death.

How Can This Be Identified And Diagnosed?

Some forms of embolism, such as those involving amniotic fluid, are very hard to identify. This is partly because the condition is rare and may not be suspected immediately. Generally, though, imaging tests can help to identify blockages in blood vessels. The following procedures may be performed:

  • Physical examination.
  • Medical history.
  • Blood tests, including the specialised D-Dimer test.
  • Angiography.

Is It Possible To Treat Embolism Successfully?

Absolutely.

Blood thinners are the first and foremost course of treatment administered to embolism patients. These prevent the formation of internal blood clots and also ensure that existing clots get dissolved gradually. These are given either in form of pills or are directly injected into the body. Heparin is one such commonly prescribed drug. Many thrombolytic drugs (clot-dissolvers) may be employed in extreme cases where the clot is life-threatening and needs to be dissolved as quickly as possible. Surgery can also be used to remove blood clots. This requires the insertion of a catheter or a vein filter that removes the clot.

There are several ways to prevent the onset of embolism, especially among those who are at a high risk of developing such blood clots. Anti-coagulants must be given to such patients before and after surgeries and in the event of a stroke or cardiac arrest. Patients with embolism must make it a habit to wear compression stockings and keep their legs elevated to avoid pooling of blood at the extremities. Patients should avoid sitting for long or traveling long distances without taking stops.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • When travelling, ensure that you are consuming adequate healthy fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol).
  • If you have a severe case of pulmonary embolism, it is important to wear compression stockings.
  • Continue your blood-thinning medications strictly according to doctor’s institution.
Don'ts
  • Keep sitting in one place for a longer duration of time, such as long flights.
  • Completely skip out on exercises and physical activities.
  • Take aspirin under any circumstance. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

 

 

 

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Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an enema could actually…
Garlic health benefits cloves
Garlic: Nature’s white pill as an effective home remedy What are the secrets hidden in these tiny white pills? Find out the immense health benefits of using…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
free thyroxine ft4
Free thyroxine test (FT4) The FT4 or free thyroxine test is used to detect the level of free thyroxine of FT4 thyroid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
blood elements analysis
Vitamin Profile Your doctor will recommend you undergo the vitamin profile test if you are showing signs of either vitamin…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
lipoprotein A
Lipoprotein (A) Test Lipoprotein (A) test is used to measure and monitor the levels of LDL(Low-Density Lipoprotein) in the bloodstream in…
creatinine
Creatinine Test The level of creatinine in the blood is a significant indicator of the health of your kidneys. This…
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Muscle relaxers: Think twice before popping prescription drugs for muscle pain The market is brimming with OTC muscle relaxers. But these come with a host side-effects. Find out the…
PREGNANCY
Pregnancy During pregnancy, the body undergoes a number of biological and physical changes to accommodate and provide for the…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
Crossfit with rope
CrossFit: Now get the perfectly sculpted body with this explosive gym routine CrossFit is a fitness regimen that makes use of high-intensity exercises in a shorter period to achieve muscle…
Bloodtestalbumin
Albumin Test Albumin test or blood serum test is a liver function test that measures the amount of the protein…
Hibiscus: Nourish your beauty and health with these vibrant blooms Hibiscus is a trumpet shaped flower found abundantly in tropical countries. It has been historically used for its…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Tachycardia heart
Cardiac Profile Cardiac profile is panel of blood tests performed to check cholesterol level and other heart disease markers to…
CT-scan-machine
CT – Computed Tomography Scan CT scan or computed tomography scan is an diagnostic imaging technique where cross-sectional images of body are obtained…
Trisodium Phosphate: How a paint thinner made its way into your breakfast Ever thought how toxic chemicals find their way into our foods? How can they harm our body? And…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
Anti-Inflammatory foods: 18 foods to a disease-free you Anti-inflammatory foods are the foods which are known to reduce the inflammation as well as the pain from…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
DASH Diet: What to eat in a “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension”? If you or your loved one is suffering from chronic hypertension (high blood pressure), dash towards a DASH…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
aspartame or sugar
Aspartame – Hidden truths about this storm in a teacup Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, has gone under the scanner on several occasions for allegedly doing more harm than…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
complement c4 test
Complement 4 (C4) Test The Complement 4 or C4 test measures the level of the protein in the bloodstream, and is primarily…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
Krill Oil: Does the solution to human illnesses really lie at the depths of the ocean? The word "krill" means “small fry of fish” in Norwegian. They are usually the primary food source of…
GERD heartburn
Heartburn: What are the exact symptoms and the best home remedies? There are easy home remedies for heartburn, which not only acts as a first aid when you experience…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
hsv-igg
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody which stays in the blood…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
smelling-salts-benefits
The actual science behind smelling salts and how it helps in injury recovery Most smelling salts are a mixture of ammonium carbonate and some perfumes which are sniffed by an individual…

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