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Diagnosing a pulmonary embolism

If an Illinois patient begins to experience shortness of breath, sudden chest pains or begins to cough up blood, there is a chance that they could be suffering from a pulmonary embolism. If a pulmonary embolism is not diagnosed in a timely manner, the condition may be fatal.

Prior to ordering diagnostic tests, a doctor will discuss the patient's medical history and perform a physical exam. A patient's medical history is examined to determine if there might be other causes of the symptoms the patient may be experiencing. During the physical exam, the doctor may look for signs of deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, in the patient's legs. Additionally, the patient's blood pressure will be noted.

If the patient has the risk factors or is exhibiting symptoms of pulmonary embolism, the doctor may order a number of different diagnostic tests before making a diagnosis. For example, the doctor may order an ultrasound to look for any potential blood clots in the patient's veins. Additionally, the doctor may order a pulmonary angiography to examine blood flow in the lungs. If a diagnosis cannot be made through the results of these tests, there are others that may be used to diagnose a patient, including a chest X-ray, a chest MRI and an echocardiography.

If a pulmonary embolism is not diagnosed, the patient has a 30 percent chance of dying from the condition. If the condition is not diagnosed and the patient dies, the family may have the grounds to file a wrongful death claim against the doctor who failed to diagnose the condition. In most cases, this type of lawsuit allows the family to seek compensation in order to recover from a financial loss, especially if the loved one's income supported the family.

Source: NIH, "How Is Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosed?" Accessed on Jan. 21, 2015

Source: NIH, "What Is Pulmonary Embolism?" Accessed on Jan. 21, 2015

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