Life Expectancy After Blood Clot in the Lung

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Life Expentancy Blood Clot Lung

Between 350,000 and 900,000 people are affected by blood clots each year, according to current estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These clots commonly form in a damaged blood vessel in the lower part of the body and can break off and travel to other areas. A pulmonary embolism, for example, is a blood clot that typically forms in a deep leg vein, which can break off and travel to one of the lungs.

While blood clots can move to other parts of the body, they’re particularly dangerous—and can be fatal—when they block blood flow to the lungs. When they’re treated effectively, your prognosis and life expectancy are promising, especially when you receive ongoing vein care from a communicative and compassionate physician at one of our Center for Vein Restoration vein clinics.

The first step is taking your venous health into your own hands by familiarizing yourself with the primary blood clot causes and symptoms — particularly those surrounding one of the forms that can have a high mortality rate — the pulmonary embolism.

How Does Blood Clot?

Before we delve into the why, let’s talk about the how: how, exactly, does the clotting reaction occur? Several steps must take place. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute breaks down the process:

  1. The damaged vessel gets thinner to stop the leakage of blood.
  2. A chemical signal seeking the release of platelets is sent to the spleen, and the walls of the damaged blood vessel become sticky to catch them as they travel by.
  3. The platelets morph into a plug-like shape and grow sticky as well, enabling them to cling to the wall of the damaged blood vessel.
  4. The blood clot is formed, while a long, sticky protein called fibrin is released, serving as a meshy substance that traps red blood cells. At the same time, the platelets will contract and pull the walls of the damaged blood vessel together to make repair easier.

While many blood clots dissolve on their own as part of the body’s natural healing process, several factors can increase the chances of blood clot pain and other complications. For example, we mentioned that the clot can break off and travel to other parts of the body, like a lung. According to the Mayo Clinic, these problematic blood clots are often connected to activities and conditions, including:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure/ heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • COVID-19
  • Prolonged sitting or bed rest
  • Cancer
  • Family history

If a clot breaks off and travels to one of your lungs, recognizing the signs of a pulmonary embolism can help you know when immediate blood clot treatment is necessary, improving your life expectancy and overall outlook.

Calculating Life Expectancy After Blood Clot in the Lung

When determining your life expectancy after a blood clot travels to the lung, it’s important to realize that many of the factors associated with this risk have varying effects on your overall health. Some pulmonary embolisms, for example, can lower oxygen levels and strain your heart, while others may not have any noticeable symptoms at all and are simply found during imaging being performed for other medical reasons.

Calculating your life expectancy starts with classifying the pulmonary embolism into one of five categories. This is called the Pulmonary Embolism Severity Index (PESI):

  • Provoked PEs are described as having an identifiable risk factor, like trauma, surgery, or pregnancy.
  • Unprovoked PEs do not have an identified risk factor.
  • Massive PEs increase heart rate and lower blood pressure.
  • Sub-massive PEs put a strain on the heart and may be seen with labs or imaging tests.
  • Low-risk PEs come without blood pressure effects and don’t strain the heart.

After your physician determines your PESI, they will calculate your estimated life expectancy based on several other medical factors, which include:

  • Vital signs like heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood pressure
  • Age and sex
  • History of relevant medical conditions like lung disease, heart failure, or cancer
  • Oxygen saturation
  • Altered mental state

Ultimately, determining your life expectancy after a blood clot in the lung requires a complicated formula that can most accurately be calculated using your PESI and the other medical factors listed above, according to Medical News Today. PE is the third-highest cause of cardiovascular mortality and affects 1-2 of every 1,000 people in the U.S. each year, but patients have a good chance of recovering if they receive immediate treatment.

A large study in Canada found that patients who had an unprovoked PE had a 15 percent mortality rate over five years, while those with a provoked PE had a mortality rate of 20 percent over the same period, as per Verywell Health.

Blood Clot Symptoms and Recovery

While understanding life expectancy after a blood clot in the lung can certainly instill hope, meeting or surpassing this estimate while maintaining your quality of life comes with proper vein care. Patients who have previously experienced a PE may be more susceptible to recurring episodes, prompting some physicians to prescribe a short- or long-term blood-thinning medication intended to reduce this risk, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Other times, a patient’s PE may not require a blood-thinning medication — or even a stay at the hospital.

Regardless of the severity of your PE, seeking immediate care and following your healthcare provider’s recommendations when it comes to treatment and recovery will give you the best outlook.

Lung Blood Clot: Seeking Immediate Treatment

We know that blood clots can form anywhere in the body — but signs of a serious lung blood clot are often so uncomfortable that they simply can’t be ignored. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it may mean that a clot has dislodged from one part of the body, traveled through the bloodstream, and made its way to one of your lungs. Seek immediate treatment if you experience:

  • Pain when breathing deeply
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing

If you’re suffering from any symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency — especially signs that may indicate higher clotting risks — Center for Vein Restoration experts are here to provide clarity and support by helping you navigate your treatment options while managing your care and recovery along the way.

We also offer a DVT rule-out service for same-day or next-day diagnosis and treatment plans. Call our hotline number at 877-SCAN-DVT.


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