Mercy Pulmonary Medicine Expert Dr. Albert Polito Discusses How to Prevent Pulmonary Embolism
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that blood clots in the lungs, also called pulmonary embolisms affect hundreds of thousands of Americans each year old and young alike.
Who's at risk for this potentially life-threatening condition?
Jo Sue Livesay will never forget the day when she suddenly had trouble breathing.
"Just going (breathless sounds), so um, that's how I knew. I didn't have any pain, I just knew I had difficulty breathing," Livesay said.
Jo Sue had a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that traveled to her lung and became trapped in a blood vessel. According to Dr. Albert Polito, Director, The Lung Center at Mercy, smoking and being overweight can put anyone at risk, but that's not all.
"(It can happen) if you've gone through surgery, especially surgery where you're laid up afterwards, and are immobile for some reason. Inactivity of any prolonged nature, so if you're on a long car ride or a long plane ride, cramped position, that's another risk factor, pregnancy is a risk factor," Dr. Polito said, noting that an embolism starts in the legs.
"The muscles of the legs squeeze the veins and actually help to promote blood flow to return to the heart, but if you're not moving or there's some other reason that that's an issue; pregnant women, the enlarging uterus presses on the blood vessels, and it makes it harder for the blood to return back to the heart. This can make the blood very sluggish in the veins of the legs, you get clots, they break off and go to the lungs," Dr. Polito said.
Livesay was fortunate. She was treated with blood thinners and thanks her husband for getting her to the hospital in time. Her advice to others is, "Don't sit around and wait." It can save a life.
View Dr. Albert Polito’s interview regarding risks and prevention of pulmonary embolism.
Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at www.mdmercy.com, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.
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