Pulmonary embolism - Prevention & prognosis

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How can pulmonary embolism be prevented?

Prevention

The risk of a pulmonary embolism can be minimized by a series of general measures and medication:

  • In case of illness, you should rest in bed only as much as is necessary.
  • After a surgery you should get out of bed as soon as possible with the help of a physiotherapist and move under his or her supervision (early mobilization).
  • In certain situations you should wear compression stockings (especially before and after surgery)
  • Talk to your physician, if you take medication that could promote thrombosis.  There are alternatives.
  • Drink enough liquids
  • Avoid risk factors such as smoking or obesity
  • Move enough during long trips (e.g. by plane). If necessary, you should take an injection with heparin beforehand and wear compression stockings! Please consult your family doctor.
  • Do vein gymnastics. This prevents varices and facilitates the blood flow.
  • During coumarin therapy, check your coagulation values regularly
  • Diseases of the coagulation system should be treated consistently

Prognosis

The danger posed by a pulmonary embolism depends on its extent and on the health condition of the patient.  Up to 90 percent of all death cases occur within the first two hours after the symptoms start.  An early therapy however reduces the death rate by lung embolism. After the disease, the pumping capacity of the heart may be permanently reduced. The risk of blood clots should therefore be actively reduced. 

After a longer bed rest or surgeries, thrombosis can be prevented by blood-thinning medications.  In addition, you should wear compression stockings. This also applies in case of:

  • Pregnancy
  • Vein weakness
  • Longer flights
  • After a healed leg vein thrombosis

After surgeries, respectively after a longer bed rest, blood-thinning medications can prevent the formation of thrombosis. In such cases compression stockings are recommended. During pregnancy, in case of vein weakness, during longer flights or after a healed leg vein thrombosis, it is also recommended to wear compression stockings.

A more pronounced lung embolism is life threatening.  Both the diagnosis and the treatment should be introduced fast.  There are special recommendations in the guidelines on how the medical staff should proceed in case a lung embolism is suspected.  This can improve the prognosis and reduce the death rate.