Pulmonary embolism requires immediate medical intervention via surgery or medications such as thrombolytics and anticoagulants, reports Mayo Clinic. It is a life-threatening condition in which a blood clot blocks arterial lung function and potentially causes the death of lung tissue, or pulmonary infarction. As of 2015, pulmonary embolism causes death in one-third of all undetected cases.
Pulmonary embolism typically consists of multiple clots over a period of time, explains Mayo Clinic. It is rare that one clot alone causes the condition. Preventing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is the best way to prevent this condition because DVT is its primary cause. DVT occurs when blood clots form in the legs, or rarely, in another part of the body. Venous thromboembolism is the name of these two conditions occurring together.
DVT occurs most frequently during the bed rest following surgery or during periods of sustained sitting, reports Mayo Clinic. Hospitals employ a number of methods to reduce the risk of DVT in post-surgical patients, including the use of anticoagulants. However, the best method to prevent DVT is frequent movement. Walking increases blood flow and reduces the risk of clot formation. People who must remain seated fidget often in their seats to encourage blood flow.
In rare cases, something other than a blood clot causes pulmonary embolism, says Mayo Clinic. A tumor, air bubbles and fat from a broken bone all potentially lead to this condition. Also rare are instances of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, which happens when small blockages develop over time and slowly weaken heart and lung function.