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An often overlooked, but important medical condition to be aware of is: Pulmonary Embolism.  Pulmonary Embolism (“PE”) is a common condition in the United States being diagnosed approximately three (3) million times per year.  If this condition is not treated timely, it can be deadly.

A pulmonary embolism is when a blood clot (emboli) becomes lodged in one of the arteries in the lung(s).  These clots can block the flow of blood to the tissue distal to that point resulting in oxygen and nutrient starved tissue.  This becomes painful when breathing and is usually a sudden onset “sharp” type of pain.  PE is often mistaken for a heart attack. 

The diagnosis of PE often comes from a combination of clinical evaluation and ruling out other potential causes as well – such as a heart attack.  Emergency physicians often order blood tests, including a D-dimer to check for elevated response to a potential blood clot, a CT of the lungs with contrast (i.e., a CT Angiogram) and a simple X-ray to rule out a potential pneumothorax (i.e., a collapsed or partially collapsed lung).  Although PE is usually treatable with medical therapy via blood thinners, early diagnosis is vital as this condition can lead to a stroke or even death if left untreated.

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