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Possible treatments for pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is serious because this blockage in a lung can damage the lung and even other organs, but Illinois residents should know that it is treatable. Pulmonary embolisms are usually blood clots that travel from a leg vein to the lung, and it is important to stop a blood clot from growing and to prevent new clots.

After a PE is diagnosed, a doctor and patient have options that include medication, surgery and filtering or dissolving the clot. Unless a clot is life-threatening, blood thinners usually help treat a pulmonary embolism over a period of time because these anticoagulants prevent new clots from appearing and give the body opportunity to dissolve an existing clot.

Surgery or thrombolytics are used in serious and time-sensitive situations. Surgery can break up or remove clots while thrombolytics dissolve clots more rapidly than blood thinners, but thrombolytics are not used in every case because sudden bleeding can occur with use. A catheter is sometimes threaded through a vein up to a clot, and it might remove the clot or be used to administer medicine directly. A vena cava filter could also be an option if medication does not work or a patient cannot have blood thinners, and this filter is placed in a large vein and catches clots before they reach the lungs.

The choice of treatment options is based on many factor, including the patient's history and current condition. For example, pregnant women are not administered a blood thinner called warfarin because it could harm the pregnancy. Unfortunately, some patients do not receive the best care due to misdiagnosis or a treatment error. When medical malpractice occurs that leads to the unexpected death of a patient, a wrongful death suit can help family members receive compensation for their losses.

Source: National Institutes of Health, "How Is Pulmonary Embolism Treated?", accessed on Jan. 13, 2015

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