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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Clots in the lungs

Clots in the lungs are increasingly being diagnosed as a cause for unexplained for dyspnoea. These clots form in the legs in those who travel long distances and do not move form their seats at all or those who consume excess alcohol during flights.This also occurs in people who are ill and immobile due to various reasons.More important is the situation of the young patient labelled an asthmatic but who is, in reality,suffering from a more serious but potentially treatable disease.

Increasing Awareness

There has been an increasing awareness about this illness in the past five years thanks to the facilities available now.Radiology plays a key role in the diagnosis.Chest X-rays,ECG and heart scans give a clue to the diagnosis.It is the helical computerised axial tomogram(CAT scans) that has revolutionised diagnosis.Later developments like 64 slice CT with pulmonary angiogram can confirm the diagnosis.

Any unexplained breathlessness that does not respond to medication or gradually worsens should alert the patient or physician to an alternative diagnosis.Many times patients are investigated for cardiac ailments and declared normal.There have been many instances both in India ad abroad where pulmonary embolism was picked in patients who had undergone detailed check-up for cardiac ailments.Patients are initially reluctant to undergo investigations for clots in the lungs as this is relatively new; heart attacks and hypertension are more frequently heard and treated


According to a report from PGI in Chandigarh, pulmonary embolism strikes at the younger age than in western parts.Some of the studies done abroad and in the India have revealed that pulmonary embolism can occur in association with many medical illnesses where people are immobilised for a long periods like the post operative states and prolonged medical illness like malignancies.

The message is clear.Don't think all breathlessness is due to asthma or cardiac ailments in nature.There can be something that more than meets the eye.A well informed patient can guide the physician in the right direction.

Helpful tips

  • Keep moving so that your calf muscles are active.

  • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

  • Do not take excess alcohol before a flight especially if you suffering from sleep apnoea.

  • Avoid dehydration.

  • Carry a new inhaler in your bag.

  • Patients with asthma,COPD and on oral anti-coagulants should be assessed before travel.

  • Patients with active infectious disease should get advice from their doctor before travel.

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