Medical Professionals Often Fail to Diagnose Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, where it is estimated that at least 100,000 Americans die of PE every year. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs, where it gets stuck and blocks blood flow, causing fluid and pressure buildup, damage to lung tissue and, in serious cases, cardiac arrest and sudden death. The blood clots which travel to the lungs to become pulmonary emboli first form in the deep veins within the body, and are called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVTs most typically form in the lower legs.

It is most common for people who are physically restricted to experience DVTs and PEs. When patients are in a cast or physically immobile for any reason, the lack of body movement slows down blood flow, allowing blood to easily clot. Recent surgery also puts individuals at a higher risk. In order to avoid PE after surgery, medical professionals should use compression stockings, pneumatic cuffs (called intermittent pneumatic devices, or IPDs), physical therapy, anticoagulant medication to keep the blood thin, or a combination of these preventive therapies.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate & breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fainting
  • Heart palpations

Often, by the time these symptoms are present, the patient’s life is in immediate danger and emergency treatment is needed. The period preceding the PE emergency may be the best time to prevent the PE, and involves careful observation of the immobilized or recent surgical patient, including observation of their arms and legs for unusual swelling, discoloration, an arm or leg warm to the touch, and assessment of any complaints of arm or leg pain or cramping.

It is important to know:

  • As many as 900,000 people are impacted by DVT and PE every year.
  • Sudden death is the first symptom of PE in almost 25% of people who have PE
  • One-half of the people who survive DVT and PE will have long term complications

Pulmonary embolism is the most common cause of preventable death in patients hospitalized for surgical procedures. Recent studies have also recognized PE as one of the most frequently missed diagnoses in living patients. Our experienced attorneys fight for individuals who have been negatively impacted by the negligence of others.

If you have had a pulmonary embolism after surgery because a health care professional failed to take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety call The Yost Legal Group at 1-800-YOST-LAW (967-8529) for a free consultation.

The Yost Legal Group – Experienced Attorneys Dedicated to Protecting Your Rights

Pulmonary Embolism is The Leading Cause of Preventable Deaths in Patients Hospitalized for Surgical Procedures

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is usually caused by a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis, or “DVT”) formed in the deep veins of one or both legs, although it is possible for DVTs to form in any deep vein in the body. Unless the DVT is discovered and treated, all or part of the clot will enter the bloodstream and travel into the lungs where it lodges in a pulmonary artery and blocks the flow of blood into the lungs. Because the oxygen-depleted blood is unable to reach the lungs, the body suddenly becomes starved for oxygen. Without immediate relief, the patient may suffer devastating injuries, including brain injury, permanent lung and heart damage or death.

DVTs are more likely to develop in your legs if you experience long periods of inactivity, such as being confined to bed, having a cast on your leg or being immobile during any type of surgery under general anesthesia. The risk of DVT and PE developing during surgery increases with the length of time the patient remains under general anesthesia. Although the patient’s surgeon and other health care professionals are responsible for taking the appropriate precautions to prevent the occurrence of DVT and PE, this devastating medical condition often takes place post-surgery, in a hospital environment.

Post-operative precautions to avoid venous thromboembolism may include the patient wearing compression stockings or pneumatic compression cuffs (to massage and squeeze the leg veins to improve circulation) or taking medication to prevent blood from clotting too quickly. If a DVT or PE is suspected, the patient will undergo testing, including blood sampling to determine how quickly the patient’s blood is clotting (PT, PTT and/or INR tests) and whether the blood shows evidence of clots (D-dimer test). Imaging studies may also be ordered, to view the patient’s deep veins (Doppler ultrasound), lungs (chest X-ray, CT, spiral CT and MRI), and pulmonary arteries (pulmonary angiogram test).

Treatment of DVT and PE is designed to prevent any existing blood clot from getting bigger and stop any new blood clots from forming and traveling to the lungs. Blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) prevent new clots from forming. Clot dissolving drugs (thrombolytics) break up clots quickly. Surgical procedures are also used to treat dangerous blood clots: large, life-threatening clots can be surgically removed from the deep veins and surgery to implant a vein filter can help trap clots before they reach the lungs.

  • As many as 900,000 people are impacted by DVT/PE every year.
  • Up to 100,000 of these 900,000 individuals die due to complications.
  • Approximately 33% of patients who have had DVT and PE will experience another DVT and PE within 10 years.

Pulmonary embolism is the most common cause of preventable death in patients hospitalized for surgical procedures. Recent studies have also recognized PE as one of the most frequently missed diagnoses in living patients. If you would like to discuss a potential claim arising from a DVT or PE, the attorneys at Yost Legal Group are experienced professionals ready to investigate your claim with compassion and determination. For a free consultation, please call us at 1-800-YOST-LAW (967-8529).