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Pulmonary Embolism: A Silent Preventable Killer

Any hospital stay comes with risks. When given proper care and attention by your health care professional, many of these risks can be avoided. One of these avoidable risks is a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots that can migrate from the lower extremity to the lungs. This dire medical condition is preventable by medical professionals who oversee a patient’s care. According to the APS Foundation of America, about 600,000 people in the US have a pulmonary embolism event each year. Of those, about 60,000 die, usually within 30 to 60 minutes after the symptoms begin. Pulmonary embolisms are one of the most common causes of hospital deaths and one of the most preventable.

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a serious medical condition

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a serious medical condition that occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs and blocks one of the pulmonary arteries. It can be life-threatening and is considered a medical emergency. While it is not always preventable, there are certain risk factors and measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of developing a pulmonary embolism.

Medical malpractice related to pulmonary embolism can occur if healthcare professionals fail to diagnose or treat the condition appropriately. Common scenarios may include:

  1. Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose:
    • Healthcare providers may misinterpret symptoms or fail to recognize the signs of a pulmonary embolism.
    • Misdiagnosis could lead to a delay in treatment, increasing the risk of complications or death.
  2. Failure to Order Necessary Tests:
    • In cases where there are risk factors or symptoms suggestive of a pulmonary embolism, healthcare providers may neglect to order essential diagnostic tests such as a CT pulmonary angiography or a ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scan.
  3. Inadequate Follow-up:
    • If a patient has a known risk for blood clots, such as a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or recent surgery, and healthcare providers fail to monitor and address these risks, it could lead to the development of a pulmonary embolism.
  4. Improper Medication Management:
    • Failure to prescribe or monitor anticoagulant medications properly can increase the risk of clot formation, potentially leading to a pulmonary embolism.
  5. Lack of Patient Education:
    • Healthcare providers have a responsibility to educate patients about the signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, especially if they are at an increased risk.

It’s important to note that not every case of pulmonary embolism can be prevented, as there are instances where the condition may occur suddenly and without warning. However, healthcare professionals should remain vigilant, especially when dealing with high-risk patients, and take appropriate measures to diagnose and treat the condition promptly.

If you suspect medical malpractice in the context of pulmonary embolism, it’s crucial to consult with legal professionals who specialize in medical malpractice cases. They can assess the details of the situation and determine whether there are grounds for pursuing a legal claim. Keep in mind that medical malpractice cases can be complex, requiring thorough investigation and expert testimony to establish negligence.

Steps Medical Personnel Should Take to Avoid Pulmonary Embolisms

To avoid becoming a victim of a pulmonary embolism, patients must be made aware of the risks involved with surgery and then take the special precautions outlined by their provider. Those steps may include some or all of the following:

  1. Prescribe anti-clotting medication – this will assist patients who may be partially immobilized after a surgical procedure
  2. Become mobile after surgery – as soon as possible after an operation of any magnitude, medical staff should have the patient get up and start moving around
  3. Wear compression leggings – some patients cannot immediately move around following their surgical procedure, so compression stockings should be worn to prevent a pulmonary embolism
  4. Insist upon follow up care – patients who have had surgery should be seen by a physician soon after the procedure to check for indications of possible blood clots

Risks Associated with Pulmonary Embolisms

Certain factors make patients more susceptible to pulmonary embolisms during and after surgery. If a person falls into any of the following categories, doctors will need to provide blood thinners to help prevent blood clots. Patients who are at greatest risk include:

  • Smokers
  • Those who are overweight or obese
  • Individuals who are pregnant
  • Persons who have cancer

Symptoms Associated with Pulmonary Embolisms

The most crucial symptom of pulmonary embolisms is chest pain. The nature of the pain can be both stabbing and sharp and occurs suddenly. The pain usually becomes worse with each deep breath taken. Other symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety or apprehension
  • Sweating
  • Cough
  • Unconsciousness or passing out

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The RI Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.

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