When an air embolism or air bubble is allowed to enter the bloodstream, it can lead to a pulmonary embolism (pulmonary emboli), causing life-threatening or even fatal injuries.
Pulmonary embolisms are preventable in medical settings when the correct procedures and precautions are used. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and victims of these errors are the ones who pay the price when doctors don’t diagnose and treat an embolism.
Our medical malpractice attorneys represent injured victims in lawsuits involving personal injury or wrongful death. In addition, the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC work tirelessly to ensure the surviving family members have justice for losing their loved one involved in a medical malpractice case.
Have you been a victim of medical malpractice or negligence and experienced an air embolism leading to pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, or the wrongful death of a loved one?
Our medical malpractice attorneys are available to answer any legal questions you may have on receiving the monetary compensation you deserve.
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How Do Embolisms and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Occur?
Pulmonary embolism (pulmonary emboli) occurs when one of your pulmonary arteries in either lung becomes blocked. Generally, a sudden blockage is caused by a blood clot that has moved from the deep veins in the leg or other veins from other parts of the body to the lungs.
A blood clot occurs when the blood turns from a liquid state into a partial solid state, forming a gel-like group of blood that bonds together. Although clotting is normal, it can become dangerous when it does not dissolve on its own. Treating clots can range from medications to surgery.
When a blood clot forms in a patient and stays in one spot, it is called a thrombosis. An embolism or thromboembolism is a blood clot that begins to travel through the body. An embolism leads to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), where serious injuries can arise, including leg pain, amputation, and death.
Blood clots can be prevented with blood thinners if there is no failure to diagnose; however, doctors often miss them. Such misdiagnosis can cause a blood clot (blood clots), pulmonary embolism, chest pain, and related complications.
Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors
Developing a blood clot or a following possible pulmonary embolism can be increased by risk factors such as:
Historical Medical conditions and treatments:
- If there is a history of venous blood clots or pulmonary embolisms in your family history
- Heart disease – cardiovascular disease, particularly heart failure, increases the likelihood of a blood clot
- Cancer – Cancers like brain, ovary, pancreas, colon, stomach, lung, and kidney cancers, and cancers that have spread, enlarging the risk of having a blood clot, and chemotherapy. Using tamoxifen or raloxifene, women with breast cancer also have an increased risk of blood clots.
- Having an operation is one of the top causes of developing blood clots. Blood clotting preventative medication is usually given to patients before and after significant operations.
- Disorders that affect clotting, such as inherited disorders, affect the blood, increasing its clotting ability. Medical conditions such as kidney disease can also increase the risk of blood clots.
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- Smoking: Tobacco use is inclined to increase blood clot formation in some people
- Overweight: Excess weight increases the risk of blood clotting
- Surgical complications: Problems that arise from recent surgery
- Supplemental estrogen: Taking birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can increase blood clots.
- Pregnancy: A baby resting on the pelvis veins can slow the blood returning from the legs and lead to blood pooling in the legs.
- Prolonged immobility: Bed rest – Having the legs horizontal for long periods, such as after an operation, can cause the venous blood to move slower and gather in the legs.
- Long trips – Cramped sitting position for lengthy periods also slows the flow of blood causing blood clots.
How a Blood Clot And Air Embolism Can Happen?
Air embolisms generally occur from intravenous air into the bloodstream in a medical setting or hospital. It can be from an injection or when a catheter or IV is placed into a blood vessel.
It can also occur during hospital surgery, depending upon your risk factors or symptoms. Once an air bubble is in the blood, it can travel to the heart or the brain and cause blockages that can be fatal. Doctors can diagnose blood clots by performing a physical exam, a blood test, or medical imaging.
Causes of embolisms can be:
- Ruptured catheter or tubing – Small holes in the tubing can allow air into the IV
- Improper priming of tubing – If the tubing is not properly primed or primed while attached to the patient
- Improper removal of catheter or tubing – When an IV is removed, there is a danger of air entering the bloodstream.
Different Types Of Blood Clots
There are two different blood clots classified by where they are formed. They are arterial or venous blood clots.
Arterial Blood Clots
An artery is an elastic tube that transports oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. When a blood clot forms in the arteries and blocks blood from moving through the vein to other parts of the body, it is called an arterial blood clot. Arterial blood clots are generally found in the legs and feet.
Venous Blood Clots
A vein is an elastic blood vessel that transports low-oxygen blood from various body regions to the heart. Blood clots can also form in the veins and are known as venous blood clots. Venous blood clots can further be categorized into three different types:
- Superficial venous thrombosis – forms in a vein close to the surface of the skin
- DVT – forms in a primary vein deep in the body
- Pulmonary embolism: A deep vein thrombosis that breaks up and moves up into the lungs and causes blockage.
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism
The symptoms can differ and are dependent on how much of the lung is affected, the size of the blood clots, and the underlying heart and lung disease present.
The general signs of a pulmonary embolism are:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – Onset is sudden and worsens with strain.
- Pain in the chest – similar to the pain of a heart attack. Sharp pain is experienced when breathing deeply and unable to take a deep breath. Pain is felt when coughing, bending, or stooping.
- Cough – coughing that produces bloody or bloody-streaked sputum
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Excessive sweating
- Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf, caused by a DVT
- Clammy or discolored skin (cyanosis)
Air embolism is air bubbles or gas bubbles that end up in the vein or artery and cause a block preventing blood flow. Divers are especially prone to air embolisms.
The leading factor in the diagnosis of an air embolism is the patient’s history. An air embolism caused by a catheter or IV has a 30% mortality rate. However, even those who survive may have injuries that cause permanent damage.
Surgical procedures that have the most significant risk of an air embolism are:
- Craniotomy performed with the person in the sitting position
- Cesarean section
- Hip replacement
- Cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass
Diagnosis of an Air Embolism
Health practitioners can use the following methods to determine whether an air embolism is present:
- Chest X-Ray – Air or gas bubbles can sometimes show up on an x-ray
- Stethoscope – The trained ear can sometimes detect a “millwheel” murmur
- Blood tests
- Change in gases – when patients are under anesthetic and still being monitored in a hospital, the anesthesiologist may be able to detect a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide released at the end of expiration.
- Doppler ultrasonography is a non-invasive procedure that estimates the blood flow through the veins and arteries by bouncing high-frequency sound waves off circulating red blood cells.
- Transesophageal echocardiography uses sound to produce a highly detailed image of the heart and the vessels that lead to it.
Symptoms of an Air Embolism
The signs and symptoms of a blockage in veins or arteries caused by an air bubble are the following:
- Pain in the joints or muscles
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Blurring of vision
- Itchy skin
- Bloody frothing from the mouth
- Low blood pressure and dizziness
- Difficulty catching breath or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of coordination
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cyanosis (faint blue coloration of the skin)
- Paralysis or weakness of the extremities or one or more limbs
- Loss of consciousness.
Complications of an Air Embolism
When an air embolism is not properly diagnosed and treated by a health practitioner, it is not always fatal, but it can result in life-altering consequences such as:
- Heart attack (cardiac arrest)
- Brain damage
Preventing Embolisms and Blood Clots
Healthcare professionals, such as nurses and doctors working in general surgery, a hospital, or an emergency room, are trained to prevent air embolism and DVT and monitor them during surgeries and medical procedures.
Some preventive measures include the following:
- Use proper IV and injection procedures to ensure no air is allowed into the blood
- Monitoring for air bubbles with an ultrasound or pulmonary artery catheter during an operation
- Positioning for an operation or IV insertion. A patient placed in a sitting position can be at higher risk for an air embolism for IV procedures.
Medical malpractice may have occurred if doctors did not correctly diagnose the embolism in any of these circumstances and recommend the correct medical care in an emergency room or hospital.
Treating Embolisms After They Occur
If patients develop a pulmonary embolism (PE), doctors must timely treat the DVT by the recommending the following treatment:
- Blood thinners – You can take a blood thinner (also known as anticoagulants) or clot dissolvers (referred to as thrombolytics ). They can be taken in several ways, often through injections. Heparin is a common blood thinner. \
The second group attempts to break up the clot. However, this is a more dangerous choice because it can cause bleeding and is only used as a last resort.
- Surgery – A doctor can also resort to surgical methods. Surgeons may try to remove the blood clot entirely. It usually is valid if it is critically threatening your life or significant in size and demands removal.
- Filtering – The doctor may also filter the clot to prevent it from spreading to other patient body areas. Surgeons typically use an inferior vena cava filter to accomplish this.
Recognizing Pulmonary Embolism Medical Negligence
There are a few mistakes medical professionals can make that will warrant a pulmonary embolism negligence lawsuit, such as:
- A doctor’s misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose the blood clot without the proper tests and examination done
- The doctor did not:
- Timely treat the person
- Consider the patient’s family medical history
- Give the correct post-operation care directions
- Follow up with the patient
- Prescribe or dispense the proper medication
These actions will not only worsen a blood clot but cause preventable pain and ill-health and may warrant a pulmonary embolism lawsuit.
Talk To Our Medical Malpractice Pulmonary Embolism Attorneys In A Free Consultation Today
Any air embolism or pulmonary embolism (PE) injury can result in many health issues (leg pain, DVT, etc.) and even death for the victim. In many cases, a severe air embolism injury in a hospital or other healthcare environment is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, we have represented many clients successfully with an attorney-client relationship in pursuing Illinois medical malpractice cases involving pulmonary embolisms and wrongful death, resulting in financial compensation for:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
We offer a free consultation to discuss your case by phone call if you or a loved one were victims of a pulmonary embolism causing injury or wrongful death due to negligence. We invite you to use our contact form to contact us if you are from Cook County, Kane County, Lake County, Dupage County, and other areas.
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