DefinitionA pulmonary embolism is a blockage of an artery in the lungs. The embolism prevents blood and nourishment from getting to a specific area of the lungs. This may lead to the death of lung tissue in this area. Damage to the lungs may make it difficult for the lungs to work properly. In severe cases, a pulmonary embolism can lead to death.
|Pathway of Pulmonary Embolism|
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CausesAn embolism is caused by a lump of material, called an embolus, that is floating in the blood. The embolus is usually a blood clot, but can also be an air bubble, a piece of fat, bone marrow, or tumor tissue. The embolus travels from its original location and passes through larger blood vessels until it gets stuck in a smaller blood vessel. In this case, the embolus is trapped in an artery of the lungs.A pulmonary embolism from a blood clot most often starts in a vein in the legs or pelvis.
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Blood clot in a deep vein of a leg or the pelvis
- Increased levels of clotting factors in the blood
- Prolonged bed rest
- Major surgery, especially after pelvic surgery, knee replacement, or heart surgery
- Injury to a vein in a leg or the pelvis
- Fractures of the hip or thigh bone
- Certain blood disorders
- Prolonged sitting, such as during a long trip
- Pregnancy or postpartum period
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Autoimmune disorder, such as immune thrombocytopenic purpura, polyarteritis nodosa, or polymyositis
- Taking certain medications, such as birth control pills or antipsychotics
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