British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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A pulmonary embolism is diagnosed with a blood clot that causes a blockage inside an artery, which prevents nutrient-rich blood from reaching the lungs. Patients often succumb to the condition, but recognising the warning signs early enough significantly boosts the odds of curative treatment. One case report detailed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights some of the warning signs to look for.
Marianne Smart, 28, discovered her symptoms while she was pregnant with her second child.
At nine weeks along, Marianne reported having “severe morning sickness” and vomiting “more than six times a day”.
She added: “Otherwise, everything seemed normal. One morning, however, I noticed a dull pain on the right side along my rib cage.
“Thought it must be from having slept funny or maybe have a pulled muscle from the morning sickness. As the day went on, the pain worsened and my breathing became short and fast.”
READ MORE: ‘Sharp’ chest pain when you breathe in could signal a blood clot
A short while later, Marianne was rushed to an emergency department, where her gynaecologist obstetrician had expressed deep concern about blood clots.
Subsequent examinations, however, revealed nothing more than signs of dehydration and pain in the rib, with tests most producing normal results.
“I was sent home with a diagnosis of pleurisy,” noted Marianne, which describes inflammation, and swelling of the tissue that lines the lung and chest cavity.
However, despite being prescribed painkillers for her rib pain, Marianne’s symptoms rapidly intensified the following day.
The mother of two described a tightness in her chest and shallow breathing which continued to worsen into the night.
“The pain was unbearable, and I couldn’t breathe,” recalled Marianne.
She was later rushed to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed a severe clotting event in her lung.
“The results showed multiple pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs) and right-sided pulmonary infarction,” said Marianne.
An infarction means a portion of the lung has been blocked by a clot, which can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated.
This is because the blockage significantly hinders oxygen flow to the rest of the body, which organs need to function properly.
“My lungs were so full of blood clots that my right lung was severely damaged. I remained in the hospital for 10 days,” said Marianne.
Treatment for blood clots generally involves the administration of anticoagulant medication, which is also used as a preventive measure.
Many cases of pulmonary embolism result from an untreated stationary blood clot in the legs which dislodges and enters the bloodstream.
When a blood clot forms deep inside the vein it is usually the result of damage to the blood vessel or inflammation following an infection or injury.
This prompts blood platelets to clump together and adhere to the edges and form a plug.
Although this can affect anyone, women are at higher risk for blood clotting events during pregnancy, due to natural changes in their bodies.
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