Blood clots that travel to the lungs are called pulmonary emboli. These clots usually originate in the legs under certain circumstances. Trauma, surgeries and certain medications are associated with an increased risk of blood clot formation. We are often called in to see patients with pulmonary emboli to assist in their management. There is a very important investigation which is often overlooked in patients who have had blood clots or pulmonary emboli.
Patients who have had episodes of clotting, especially if more than one episode has occurred, should be evaluated for what is call a hypercoagulable condition. If you have this type of condition, it means that your blood will clot more easily and you may be at high risk for recurrent pulmonary emboli or other problems with clots.
Fortunately, there is a series of blood tests that can be run on patients who have had a blood clot to see if they have easy clotting. When clotting occurs patients are usually placed on medications to reduce their clotting ability. These treatments may last anywhere from three to six months, or slightly longer. However, if you have a condition where the blood clots quickly you may need to be on drugs called anticoagulants for the rest of your life or risk a fatal clotting episode.
Some of these clotting problems occur in families, but only by ordering the special tests necessary can we determine if a patient needs to be considered for life-long and life-saving treatment.