Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis


A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that lodges in pulmonary blood vessel(s). The clot is usually largish in size as they form in the large veins of the thigh. The clots can also lodge in the leg veins where it causes a similar medical emergency with similar symptoms -- this is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Chronic pulmonary embolism involves a clot in a lung vessel, but some blood is still able to pass (i.e., the clot is hugging one wall of the vessel). Acute pulmonary embolism involves a clot that is stationed in the middle of the vessel occluding blood flow. Most patients who have a pulmonary embolism will die within a few hours of the blockage becoming acute. 

Pulmonary embolism and DVT are very serious. Sometimes they present with classical symptoms -- making diagnosis and treatment happen faster. Sometimes they present with symptoms that can be confused a number of other conditions. There are no routine, specific lab results that point to either condition. Pulmonary embolism can usually be seen on CT angiography, however. If a doctor even suspects pulmonary embolism or DVT, full anticoagulant therapy should be started right away -- without waiting for diagnostic lab test results. 

Classical symptoms and signs of Pulmonary Embolism:

  • Acute chest pain with inhalations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased blood oxygen level (hypoxia)
  • Increased heart and respiratory rates

PE can present with other symptoms as well:

  • Unexplained dyspnea or tachypnea (difficulty breathing or too-rapid respirations)
  • Cough with sputum that may or may not be blood-tinged
  • Vital signs can be normal
  • Having several risk factors for PE

Symptoms of DVT are the cardinal signs of inflammation that can be present in the legs:

  • Heat
  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Or none of the above
  • Having several risk factors for DVT

Sometimes the risk factors are more indicative of the conditions of pulmonary embolism or DVT than the actual symptoms. The risk factors for both are: 

  • Prolonged period of inactivity (due to bed rest, hospital stay, extremely long travel time) that alters blood flow to lower extremities
  • Cancer (especially if it is breaking up -- causes the blood to be “sticky”)
  • Smoking (sticky blood again)
  • Family history of clots
  • Use of birth control pills or estrogen
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgery
  • Polycythemia (too many red blood cells in serum)
  • Damage to venous walls
  • Prior DVT episodes
  • Blood in hypercoagulative state
  • Trauma to lower leg(s)

If you or a loved one suffered from an medical condition becoming worse or a death occurred due to pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis, you may have a medical malpractice case.  Let the medical experts at the Sweeney Law Firm review the facts to see if you have a valid medical malpractice claim. You may be entitled to monetary compensation. Sweeney Law Firm will handle your case on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless there is a settlement or a recovery of funds for you.