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What is pulmonary embolism?

Q: I am a 32 years old man recently admitted in the hospital for severe pain in abdomen and chest pain. After a CT scan and various other tests, it was found that I have pulmonary embolism. What is pulmonary embolism? Is it a lifelong disease?

A:Pulmonary embolism is a condition where there is blockage of blood vessels in the lung by clots that started in the veins of the legs and lower abdomen. This causes shortness of breath and can cause low blood pressure due to lack of blood flow in the part of the lung affected and less chance for oxygen uptake. The heart has to work harder also for this. The cause can be a congenital genetic risk for increased clotting, injury to legs causing blood to clot, other illnesses like autoimmune problems, cancer, certain medications and sometimes unknown reasons.

Generally blood thinners are needed for about three months but this decision is made by your treating doctor. You should consider seeing an internal medicine specialist, a blood specialist and if there is any leg swelling perhaps a vascular surgeon also to evaluate measures to prevent long term changes due to blood clots in the legs. It can be a life threatening disease if not treated. Generally the risk of getting a second deep venous thrombosis (clot in the veins of the legs) is higher if you have had one before but this is again very individual dependent and you should discuss your risks with your doctor. From the history you have given I am not sure why you had abdominal pain.

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