Pulmonary Embolism

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By Rebecca Kennedy

seniormanRight around the same time as you retire, your chances in getting pulmonary embolism, or PE, increase dramatically. PE occurs when an artery is blocked in the lungs. The most common cause of blockage happens when blood clots in one of the deep veins in the legs and slowly travels up to the lungs where it is blocked by a smaller artery. There are, however, other less common ways to contract the disease such as cancerous tumors and excess fat being released into the bloodstream. Yet, before it gets to the point where PE surgery is required, there are several steps that one can take to inform themselves to combat and prevent this disease entirely.

Symptoms of PE

It is important to be cognizant of the symptoms some PE patients show, although picking up on these take some practice due to their subtleness. Unfortunately, it is possible that someone who has PE shows no signs of the disease. Here are some of the most common:

● Lightheadedness or dizziness
● Sharp chest pain worsening by deep breathing or coughing
● Increased heart rate
● Coughing up blood or a red/pink, foamy mucus
● Clammy or discolored skin
● Swelling of one leg

The Wells Score

The Wells Score is a concept created to determine the likeliness of having PE or not. Although there are several different models of the Wells Score, all of them are going to include these criteria in one way or another:

● Signs and/or symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
● Increased heart rate
● Hemoptysis
● Immobilization for at least three days or a surgery causing bedrest
● PE is the only diagnosis or is one of the most likely
● Previously diagnosed with either PE or DVT

Other questions may include whether or not a patient has had a cancerous tumor or air bubbles caused by a traumatic event or surgery.

The questions are valued on a scale that can be anywhere from -2 points to 3 points. Questions such as an increased heart rate can be 1.5 whereas previously having either PE or DVT can be 3 points. Generally, the outcomes are determined in a three tier model with having less than 2 points means that one is at low risk, 2-6 points one is at moderate risk, and finally more than 6 points meaning that one is at a high risk.

Testing

Depending on the results of the Wells Score come in one should look towards getting further testing done in order to figure a definitive result. Some tests that can be done to determine whether or not one has PE are x-rays, electrocardiogram, and a Venous Doppler study.

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