Capitol Vein Blog

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Serena Williams Blood Clot to the Lungs

Professional tennis player Serena Williams was reportedly treated for a pulmonary embolism (PE), a blood clot to the lungs.  Typically, a PE is formed in a peripheral vein, most commonly the deep thigh vein, then loosens itself and is carried in the veins going toward the right side of the heart.  Once in the heart, the clot is pumped into the lungs according to the normal flow of blood to be oxygenated.

A PE blocks off part of the lung circulation and causes chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and decrease in lung function. PE is diagnosed using special x-rays that show the circulation to the lung tissue.

Treatment usually consists of blood thinners for six months. These blood thinners help prevent ongoing formation of blood clots and the body will usually dissolve the existing clot naturally. While PE can be life threatening, many patients are successfully treated with blood thinners. The cause of PE is the same as the cause of blood clots in leg veins: prolonged sitting or sedentary activity (airplane flight), a chemical tendency for blood clot formation (genetic, dehydration), or injury to the vein (medical procedure, accident or injury).  In addition to these risk categories, varicose veins are an added risk for blood clots.  A simple evaluation of the leg veins with a venous duplex test can tell if you are at risk for DVT and PE.

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