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Pulmonary Embolisms and Medical Malpractice

Updated August 24, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Pulmonary embolisms—also referred to as deep vein thrombosis or venous thromboembolism—are dangerous and require immediate medical intervention. They are so serious, in fact, that the failure to diagnose or prevent a pulmonary embolism could constitute medical malpractice.

The condition occurs when material such as a clot or air bubble becomes lodged in a blood vessel of the lung, obstructing the supply of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Blocking airflow has serious consequences, of course; pulmonary embolisms can lead to severe complications or even death.

Pulmonary Embolism Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pulmonary embolisms are one of the leading causes of preventable hospitalization-related deaths. An estimated 900,000 people are affected by pulmonary embolisms every year in the United States, with 60,000–100,000 deaths annually.

What may be most concerning of all, however, is that 10–30% of patients diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism die within one month.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Patients with risk factors increase the likelihood of pulmonary embolisms, and therefore doctors, nurses, and hospital staff need to be aware of factors and take preventative measures.

Risk factors include the following:

  • Major surgery, especially of the hip or knee or procedures lasting longer than two hours
  • Patients who smoke
  • Patients who are overweight, dehydrated, or pregnant
  • Patients with cancer or heart disease
  • Hospitalization
  • A history of pulmonary embolisms
  • Prolonged immobility (bed rest, long journeys, etc.)

Healthcare providers also must be familiar with the symptoms of pulmonary embolisms so they can identify them as they occur. A variety of symptoms may be present:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Intense sweating
  • Rapid pulse or sharp chest pain
  • Anxiety

Unfortunately, according to CDC estimates, the first symptom of a pulmonary embolism is sudden death in 25% of patients.

How to Treat and Prevent Pulmonary Embolisms

Treatment options for pulmonary embolisms can include medications such as blood thinners or those that break up clots as well as the use of catheters or surgery to remove the clot.

To prevent pulmonary embolisms, there are several options for patients and doctors. Blood thinners, devices such as compression stockings to keep blood flowing, and providing patients with adequate fluids and opportunities for physical activity can all take part in preventing this serious medical condition.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact an Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorney from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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