Blood clots have been a problem for more than one member of our family. The most recent episode came after an ankle fracture kept the patient in bed for several weeks. We were lucky that the caregivers were observant, called us and we got her to the hospital in time.
What are blood clots in the lung? When a patient has blood clots in the leg, as our relative did, there is a strong danger they will break loose and lodge in an artery in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism. This can be fatal.
What are current tests? Blood tests, ex-rays and a test using slightly radioactive gas can all be used to help diagnose the problem. If it’s known that the patient has had blood clots or other factors, the diagnosis is a little faster.
Why do we need a new way of detection? All of the tests above take time, even if the doctor has a good idea what to look for. As an example, our relative’s time in the emergency room from admission to diagnosis was over three hours…and they had enough information to know what they were looking for. Three hours in a case of pulmonary embolism could be too long.
What is the new test? The first study of this test was done on patients who were receiving the standard tests at the same time. All it involves is a urine sample and a dipstick. The results are that fast. As further studies are done, this simple test may be extended to diagnosing deep vein thrombosis, the blood clots our relative suffered from.
How would I know if I have blood clots in my legs? This question is an important part of preventing clots in the lungs. The caregivers noticed that our relative had a dark “sock” on one foot and an unusual bruise on her thigh. The sock kept moving up the leg. This suggested that blood flow back to the heart might not be normal.
There was also inflammation associated with this sock. We marked and measured both legs at the same place to have a point of reference for the doctors while we awaited permission to bring her to the emergency room (this difficulty was due to her insurance). I kept e-mailing the doctor with the measurements, and they finally told us to bring her in. The diagnosis only took three hours because they knew what she had, they just had to confirm it.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism? The general symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath and coughing. The cough may produce blood. Leg pain, bluish skin, clammy skin, difference in heart beat and dizziness may also occur. If the clot occurs before the diagnosis of a blood clot in the leg, you may notice the sock I mentioned and the swelling in that leg.
This test could save lives and limbs. It is still preliminary, but the findings are exciting. A fast way to diagnose in potentially fatal illness is always welcome news.