Pulmonary Embolisms: The Dangers of Undiagnosed and Misdiagnosed Blood Clots in the Lungs

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Fans of Dancing with the Stars were stunned last season when singer and reality star Tamar Braxton withdrew from competition with only three weeks remaining. Surprisingly, Braxton did not leave due to a broken bone or torn muscle, but because of something even more serious—blood clots in her lungs.

The 38-year-old Braxton had reportedly not been feeling well during practice, and on show day was rushed to the hospital with what she thought was pneumonia. Though doctors advised her not to leave the hospital, Braxton returned to the show for what would be her final dance. After heading back to the hospital feeling exhausted, she learned of the blood clots in both sides of her lungs.

A blood clot in the lung is known as a pulmonary embolism and is a blockage in one of the arteries connecting the heart with the lungs. It most commonly occurs when a blood clot in the leg (known as a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) travels to the lungs and becomes a life-threatening condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one-third of people with undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolisms do not survive.

Blood clots can happen to anyone, but there are risk factors for a DVT or pulmonary embolism including:

  • history of heart disease or cancer
  • prolonged time off your feet including bed rest, hospital stays and long trips by car or plane
  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy

Symptoms of a DVT or pulmonary embolism include:

  • swelling and pain in leg, usually the calf
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain and coughing
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy

Unfortunately these symptoms mimic symptoms of other illnesses. An x-ray of the lungs may lead doctors to believe a patient has pneumonia since both cause pulmonary congestion. While a chest x-ray alone cannot diagnose a blood clot, it can show signs consistent with a pulmonary embolism.

A Virginia women is well aware of the problems that occur with a misdiagnosed pulmonary embolism. Andrea Annibale was coughing and having trouble catching her breath when the 38-year-old went to an urgent care center. After three visits over three weeks that included chest x-rays and two rounds of antibiotics, she was still told she only had pneumonia. When her symptoms worsened, including coughing up blood, she went to the emergency room where it was finally discovered she had multiple clots in her lungs. She was admitted to the hospital for seven days and had to stay on blood thinners for an entire year.

Tamar and Andrea were lucky. Their pulmonary embolisms were caught before any serious damage was done. Others are not as fortunate and endure life altering consequences. If you or someone you love has suffered from doctors failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a pulmonary embolism or DVT, contact a dedicated attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C., to hold these medical professionals responsible for putting precious lives in danger and causing you unnecessary pain and suffering.