A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. I once helped the family of a father of three whose pulmonary embolism (PE) went undetected in the hospital. The PE cost him his life. His children will grow up without a father because a doctor ignored the signs of a PE. Failure to diagnose a pulmonary embolism can cost innocent patients their lives. This is just another example of medical malpractice and the horrible aftermath.
Pulmonary embolism is a severe medical condition. A PE requires emergency medical care. A PE is a clump of material that travels to the lungs and gets stuck in an artery in the lung. When it gets stuck, it makes it difficult for the lungs to supply needed oxygen to the body. The clump of material can be:
- a blood clot
- part of a tumor
- air bubbles
- fat from the marrow in a broken bone
An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Americans die each year from a pulmonary embolism. Failing to recognize the symptoms of a PE can be medical malpractice. Not treating a patient with a PE fast enough can also be medical malpractice.
Who is at Risk for a Pulmonary Embolism?
There are risk factors that doctors and nurses need to be aware of when treating patients. Certain people are more at risk for a PE including:
- Surgical Patients – Patients who recently had a long surgery.
- Immobility – Patients who aren’t getting out of bed or who have been bedridden or immobile before being admitted to the hospital.
- Patients who are dehydrated
- Patients with heart disease
- Pregnant women
- Cancer patients
- Overweight patients
What are the Signs & Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism?
Although the symptoms of a PE can vary, they may include:
- Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath that comes on quickly and gets worse with activity.
- Chest pain – Patients may think they are having a heart attack. The pain may get worse with breathing deeply, coughing or moving. The chest pain typically doesn’t go away with rest.
- Cough – The cough may produce bloody phlegm or even a coffee ground looking material.
- Leg pain or swelling – This swelling usually appears in the calf.
- Clammy skin
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
How to Prevent and Treat a Pulmonary Embolism?
When the medical staff is paying attention and treating a PE timely, preventative measures can help save lives. Patients may be treated with the following:
- TED stockings – Also called compression stockings. These apply pressure to the legs to prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
- Blood thinners – Medications can be given to thin the blood to prevent it from clotting.
- Pneumatic compression devices – These are applied to the legs. They inflate and deflate creating pressure on the legs. The device work almost like the blood pressure cuff that the doctor uses to take your blood pressure. These help the blow to flow through the legs.
- Physical activity – Immobile patients are at higher risk for a PE.
If preventative measures have not worked, or been given, and a PE forms, doctors can act to address the clot. Once a pulmonary embolism has formed, physicians may address the clot by:
- Giving the patient clot-busting medications
- Prescribing blood thinners
- Using a catheter to suction out the clot
- Placing a filter in the vein to catch the clot before it moves to the lungs
- Performing surgery to remove the clot
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney who handles Failure to Diagnose a Pulmonary Embolism Cases
If you believe a doctor or hospital failed to prevent a pulmonary embolism or failed to diagnose a pulmonary embolism, you need a lawyer who understands the law and medical issues. Chelsie King Garza has successfully handled these cases before. Contact her for a free consultation today.