Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism

Very few sensations induce panic like being unable to breathe. However, many injuries and complications from traumatic incidents can interfere with your ability to breathe. As a result, you may experience life-threatening shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat.

You may need expensive emergency medical care and hospitalization. You may even suffer permanent lung damage that affects your respiration for the rest of your life. Consequently, you may have difficulties with any actions that require physical exertion, including exercising, working, or performing household tasks.

The Respiratory System

The Respiratory System

A pulmonary embolism affects the respiratory system. To understand how a pulmonary embolism affects a person’s breathing, you must first know how the respiratory system works.

The lungs and heart work together to carry oxygen to every cell in your body through the pulmonary arteries.

When they reach the lungs, blood cells carry carbon dioxide waste from the cells. They release the waste gas and exchange it for oxygen. You exhale the carbon dioxide, and the oxygen-carrying blood cells return to the heart through the pulmonary veins.

The heart pumps the oxygenated blood through your body through the arteries. The blood cells drop off oxygen and pick up carbon dioxide. The oxygen-depleted blood returns to the heart to restart the cycle.

What Is a Pulmonary Embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that typically forms in the body’s veins. The bloodstream carries the clot to the heart, which pumps it toward the lungs. The clot gets stuck in the pulmonary arteries, partially blocking blood flow to the lungs. This constriction prevents oxygen-depleted blood from picking up oxygen for the body.

What Are the Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism?

Since oxygen-depleted blood cannot get rid of its carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen, your oxygen levels will drop. 

You will experience symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Sweating and clamminess
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

A drop in your oxygen levels can also stress your heart. 

As a result, you might experience symptoms such as:

  • Chest tightness
  • Chest pain that radiates into your left shoulder or arm
  • Rapid heartbeat

If left untreated, you could suffer a heart attack. This happens when your heart does not receive enough oxygen, and its cells begin to die.

What Can Cause a Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolisms result from blood clots, which can occur due to diseases and naturally occurring health conditions. They can also result from trauma. 


Blood clots form when platelets in the blood stick together. The sticky clots block cuts and punctures to prevent you from bleeding. Thus, blood clots serve a life-saving purpose, whether the cut resulted from an accidental laceration or an intentional incision.

During surgery, your body increases the clotting factors in the blood to stop any bleeding that occurs. After surgery, these proteins remain in the blood and increase the risk of clotting. Clots can form in your veins since the blood has a lower pressure and speed.

Importantly, these clots do not necessarily form where you had your surgery. For example, if you required shoulder surgery after a slip and fall accident, you could still develop blood clots in your legs simply due to the extra clotting factors in your blood.

Bone Fractures

When you break a bone, a clot forms over the fracture as part of the natural healing process. The clot protects the break from infection and bleeding. It also contains the cells responsible for healing the break where they are needed.

During the six to eight weeks while your fracture heals, a piece of the clot can break off and travel to your lungs. Again, the break does not need to happen near your lungs to travel there through your veins. A clot could break off anywhere and cause a pulmonary embolism.


Pulmonary embolisms can form anywhere, but the most common location for the formation of blood clots is in the deep veins of the legs. With low pressure and slow flow, the blood in these veins can coagulate more easily than in other veins.

Inactivity allows the blood to pool in the veins, increasing the risk of clot formation. For example, suppose your doctor orders several weeks of bedrest after you herniate a disc in your back during a car accident. While you are laid up with your back injury, you could develop blood clots in your veins.

Doctors can help you with this problem by prescribing compression socks or intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices. These devices squeeze your legs to prevent the blood from pooling and forming blood clots.


Pressure can squeeze the veins and create a kink where a blood clot can form. This sometimes happens on long drives or flights when the pressure of the seat on the back of your legs can create blood clots. It can also happen when you are immobilized after suffering a traumatic injury.

Suppose that you broke your leg in a pedestrian accident. The pressure of a walking boot on your calf can create a blood clot that travels to your lungs and becomes a pulmonary embolism. Similarly, you can develop a blood clot in your buttocks if you spend hours at a time sitting after suffering a spinal cord injury that paralyzes your legs.

Can I Get Compensation For a Pulmonary Embolism?

You can pursue compensation for any injury that results from someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions. In most cases, the injury results directly from the traumatic incident. For example, you might pursue a claim for a concussion after a rear-end collision. You can also pursue a claim for complications you suffer that have a causal relationship to the accident.

Even if your trauma did not directly cause the clot, you can seek compensation for a pulmonary embolism. You only need to connect the clot to the injury you suffered. For example, your lawyer could hire an expert witness to explain how your pulmonary embolism resulted from a clot that broke off after you fractured your arm in an accident.

The compensation you can seek could include your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include financial costs like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic losses include anything that erodes your quality of life, including pain, mental anguish, and disability.

A pulmonary embolism can traumatize you mentally and physically. Contact the lawyers at Allen Law Firm, P.A. for a free consultation at (877) 255-3652 to discuss your injuries and the financial compensation you can seek for them.