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How Long Before a Pulmonary Embolism Kills You?- Understanding the Life-Threatening Risks

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Before moving on to the causes, and symptoms of pulmonary embolism and how it affects you let’s dig into what the word “pulmonary embolism” means. “Pulmonary” means something that is related to the lungs and embolism means an artery that is blocked so altogether pulmonary embolism means when the artery that is carrying blood to the lungs is blocked by the formation of a clot. This will cause damage to lung tissues and will restrict gaseous exchange in the lungs.

What Causes Pulmonary Embolism?

Now that you know what pulmonary embolism means you might be thinking what causes pulmonary embolism. But stop here for a second because we are about to answer the most asked question; can a pulmonary embolism kill you? The answer to this question is yes it can, if not treated at the right time. 

Major cause of pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism is mainly caused by deep vein thrombosis so People who have deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are at risk of pulmonary embolism. In deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot is formed in deep veins of the arms or legs then it travels to the lungs.

Rare causes of pulmonary embolism:

The rare causes of pulmonary embolism are:

History of blood clot disorder

People who have a family history of blood clot disorder may suffer from pulmonary embolism.

Heart diseases

People with heart diseases or people who suffered from heart strokes are at risk of pulmonary embolism.


Cancer increases the risk of blood clot formation so it can also cause pulmonary embolism.


Surgery can also cause a pulmonary embolism if blood thinning medicine is not given before and after treatment.

Timeframe: How long before a pulmonary embolism kills you?

Some of you might be wondering how blood clot can be so dangerous that it causes death as many people survive heart attack. 

So just like how all strokes are not life-threatening but some are, PE is life-threatening too. Most people often ask how does a pulmonary embolism kill you and here is the answer.

What actually happens is that the blood clot buildup in the artery causes that blood to stop flowing which leads to the restriction of oxygen in that area. 

It also increases pressure in the area and a heart cannot bear that much pressure so it eventually causes failure of the heart.  People with Pulmonary embolisms undiagnosed and untreated will die within a few minutes.

There is no chance of their survival in those patients.  However, if it is treated the chances of death become very less. Untreated pulmonary embolism can cause:

  • Cardiac arrest: A situation in which one’s heart stops beating completely.
  • Cardiac arrhythmia: A situation when your heart beats in an abnormal manner. It either beat too fast or too slow.
  • Pulmonary Hypertension: A situation when the pressure in your lungs becomes to high that the right side of your heart stops working.

So now if someone asks you can pulmonary embolism kill you you know you can provide them with the causes as well and not just an answer. 

Mortality rate after the treatment

The mortality rate after treatment of Pulmonary embolism is just 8% which can be lowered or increased depending on the circumstances and varies from person to person. In the majority of cases, people recover completely after treatment but in a few cases, people experience shortness of breath or chest pain for a few days or months.

How To Treat Pulmonary Embolism?

The treatment of pulmonary embolism can be surgical and non-surgical depending upon the size of the clot and severity of the issue. The surgical method is preferred only in rare cases when a patient cannot take medicines due to some other health issues or when a clot fails to get removed with medication.

Non-Surgical treatment:

Non-surgical treatment includes medications that are of two types:

1. Blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants)

2. Clot-dissolving medicines (thrombolytics)

Surgical treatment:

Surgeries are of two types:

Pulmonary Embolectomy:

A pulmonary embolectomy is the direct removal of a clot from its place. During the surgery, a surgeon makes a laceration on the pulmonary artery, finds the clot and then removes it.

Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement:

Inferior Vena Cava filter placement is considered a temporary treatment. In this treatment a device is placed in the inferior vena cava that stops blood clots from reaching the lungs. It is placed till the time there are very low chances of pulmonary embolism.

Try These Remedies To Stay Away From Pulmonary Embolism

Healthy Diet:

What not to eat?

The more weight you have the more pressure you will have on the veins in your legs and the more pressure you have on veins the more risk you will have of getting pulmonary veins. Try to avoid eating too much-processed foods like white bread, white rice, fast food and so on. Taking too much salt in food can increase blood pressure which can disturb the movement of blood. This doesn’t mean you start eating food without adding salt but what you should do is add a very little amount of salt to food. Avoid eating sugar or taking too much alcohol/ caffeine. 

What to eat?

Eat foods that are rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin E and Vitamin D as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Make use of raw honey, and green tea, apple cider vinegar in your daily routine. Eat foods that are sources of protein like beans, nuts and fish.

Daily physical activity

Doing physical activity promotes healthy blood flow so add some kind of physical activities to your daily routine like jogging, walking, running or playing games like badminton or cricket. Many people are office going so they don’t get much time for physical activities so what you can do is you can take short walking breaks and you can stand and stretch frequently.

Avoid becoming dehydrated

Dehydration can cause higher chances of blood clot formation so always keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water on a daily basis. If you forgot to drink water during working hours what you can do is fill a bottle of water and keep it on your desk right in front of you so whenever you see if you remember to drink water or you can even set water drinking reminders on your phone to stay hydrated.

Never smoke

 People who smoke have a high chance of getting pulmonary embolism than people who don’t. So in case you smoke try to minimize it from today and ultimately quit it.  Though quitting smoking can be a little difficult but with hard work everything is possible. In case you are unable to quit. You can even seek a doctor’s help to leave smoking.

Compression Stockings

 If you are at a higher risk of blood clots, your doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of clots.

Medication and Treatment

If you have a medical condition or are at high risk of developing blood clots, your doctor may prescribe anticoagulant medications or other preventive treatments.

Understand and Manage Risk Factors

Be aware of factors that increase the risk of blood clots, such as family history, hormonal contraceptives, and certain medical conditions. Consult with your doctor to manage these risks effectively.

Follow Postoperative Guidelines

If you undergo surgery, follow your surgeon’s guidelines for postoperative care, including prescribed medications and recommended activity levels.

Remember, these remedies and preventive measures can reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism but may not guarantee complete prevention. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice based on your specific medical history and risk factors.

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