Ways to Treat Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that forms in a major blood vessel in the lungs. The decision on how to treat pulmonary embolism depends on the size of the clot. Many times, the embolism is small and can be easily treated before it does damage to the lungs. However, large embolisms can be life threatening and must receive immediate medical care. Treatment involves managing the current embolism and preventing future embolisms that are likely to occur in these patients.

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Thrombolytic Medications

Pulmonary embolism medications can be used in emergency situations to prevent life-threatening effects. In a pulmonary embolism crisis, physicians determine the location of the clot and inject it with thrombolytic medications that will break it up quickly. These drugs may be administered through a catheter, through which the physician can then remove the clot from the body.

Blood Thinners

Pulmonary embolism treatment guidelines also include the use of blood thinners on continued basis to prevent other dangerous clots from forming in the future. Blood thinning medications, such as warfarin, which is given as a pill, or heparin, which is administered through an injection. Pulmonary embolism treatment duration may be lifelong, if the physician feels the risk of other clots in a particular patient is high enough to warrant continued use of the these medications.

Vena Cava Filter

Some patients cannot take blood thinning medications or have do not achieve sufficient effects from their use. Another option for treatment is the vena cava filter, which is inserted into the large central vein of the body to prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs.

Surgery

In rare situations, the physician may decide to remove the clot surgically to prevent further damage to the lungs or to prevent death.

Compression Stockings

Elastic stockings are often prescribed to reduce swelling caused by blood clots in the legs. Graduated compression stockings provide increased pressure in the lower leg, with gradually less pressure in the upper portion of the leg to prevent pooling and clotting of blood in leg veins that may travel to the lungs.

With ongoing medical treatment, the pulmonary embolism prognosis is good, and patients can continue their normal activities, with medication and regular visits to their doctor.