06 October 2011

Wellness: DVTs & PEs


This morning, I learned of two people who have passed away in the past two days in Georgia because of a pulmonary embolism: one was an adult and one was a teenager.  This inspired me to help better educate the public about DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) and how they cause pulmonary embolisms (PE).  
Disclaimer: this is not a "sunshine-y" subject in any way, shape, or form.
{But I will try to take out the scary as much as possible.}

Quick summary: DVTs are clots that form mainly in your legs, but sometimes in the arm.  The clots can break free and travel through your circulation to your heart and lungs.  When this happens, it is called a pulmonary embolism.  A PE needs immediate medical attention because they are highly fatal.

Formally, a PE refers to the obstruction of he pulmonary artery or one of its branches that originates somewhere in the venous system or in the right side of the heart.

Signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism:

  • Dyspnea
  • Chest pain that is sudden and pleuritic
    • May mimic angina or a heart attack
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cough
  • Sweating
  • Bloody sputum, or coughing up blood
  • Very rapid respiratory rate

These symptoms may not present, or may be slight.  Without being descriptive, medical attention must be sought immediately because this is considered a medical emergency.


In order to better prevent a PE, please understand the signs and symptoms as well as risk factors of DVTs.
  • First symptom usually a pain or cramp in the calf
  • Initial pain and tenderness followed by a painful swelling of the entire leg
  • Often accompanied by fever, chills, and sweating
In order to avoid treatment and other topics that you can read about on WebMD as well as any other information you'd like to know (like more signs and symptoms), I'm going to go straight in to the risk factors:
  • Surgery
  • Sedentary lifestyle, immobility
  • Oral contraceptives and estrogen therapy
  • Long flights, long drives, prolonged sitting
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Cancer
  • Fracture to the leg
References:
Smeltzer, S. C., Bare, B. G., Hinkle, J. L., & Cheever, K. H. (2010). Management of Patients with Chest and Lower Respiratory Tract Disorders. Brunner & Suddarth's Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing (12th ed., pp. 551-600). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Smeltzer, S. C., Bare, B. G., Hinkle, J. L., & Cheever, K. H. (2010). Postoperative Nursing Management. Brunner & Suddarth's Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing (12th ed., pp. 461-483). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

1 comment:

  1. Good post! It's nice to be aware of these things. I sit at a computer for maybe 6.5 hours a day. I have an hour lunch and I get up to run to another dept or to the bathroom. In between those times, I make sure to stand up at least every hour to just stretch my legs.

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