What Are The Chances Of Surviving A Blood Clot In The Lung

Assessing Your Chances of Surviving A Blood Clot In The Lung

Sudden shortness of breath, sharp chest pain with breathing, coughing up blood – these are some of the terrifying symptoms that may signal a blockage from a wayward blood clot in the delicate vessels of your lungs. This article briefly describes the Chances Of Surviving A Blood Clot In The Lung.

Over one-third of patients experiencing an acute pulmonary embolism (PE) don’t survive over the next three months without rapid diagnosis and treatment. However, patients arriving alive at hospital Emergency Departments face better odds—by how much depends greatly on clot severity markers, their responsiveness to anticoagulants, and any ensuing complications. Evaluating these prognostic determinants soon after symptom onset helps establish customized care plans tailored to promote survivability long-term after this dire diagnosis initially manifests. Pulmonary embolism (PE). Without treatment, these clots can quickly cut off oxygen, cause internal bleeding, and even lead to fatal heart strain in severe cases. So what are your chances of surviving this traumatic vascular event once it strikes? Modern medicine has come a long way in improving PE detection and survival odds across varying stages of clot severity. However, taking preventive action before things advance too far remains key.

Understanding Pulmonary Embolisms

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a migrated free-floating clot, usually from the deep veins of the legs, gets stuck in the lung arteries that normally carry oxygen-rich blood back to the heart and then body-wide circulation. As this clot suddenly blocks normal blood flow and pressures build against a closed valve, the lung tissue downstream is robbed of vital oxygen. This can cause damage and even localized dying off of lung tissue.

In minor cases, collateral routes may reroute some blood flow around tiny PEs. But larger clots or showering of many small clots can quickly shut off over 50% of blood flow, which strains the right heart chamber and causes oxygen deprivation throughout bodily tissue. Quick treatment is vital in major PE events.

What are the chances of surviving a blood clot in the lung?

Diagnosing Severity Unlike deep vein blood clots isolated in legs, pulmonary emboli directly threaten imminent respiratory failure and mortality risk. Emboli restrict lung blood circulation causing poor oxygen exchange. The larger and more central the clots, the more rapidly symptoms escalate. Distinguishing between low, intermediate, and high-risk emboli at presentation dictates programs balancing prevention of recurrence with bleeding avoidance.

Survival Rates By Clot Burden & Location

Pulmonary emboli kill quickly by cutting off blood supply to lung tissues. However, small, peripheral clots may escape detection while only subtly reducing exercise tolerance due to isolated alveoli death. Large central clots alternatively cause severe dyspnea, chest pain, cough, and dizziness as blood struggles to reach wide lung regions.

Studies reveal that 62% of major pulmonary artery clots recur without anticoagulation. One-quarter of patients never stabilize sufficiently for discharge after massive PE events. Clots blocking greater than 50% of arteries often require advanced support like ECMO oxygenation, surgical embolectomy, or catheter suctioning alongside fibrinolytic drugs that digest clots faster than standard Heparin drips.

Even after recovering initially, chronic pulmonary hypertension develops in 4% of PE survivors—increasing heart failure and stroke risks long term. Aggressive prevention of recurrence and vascular inflammation proves vital, especially after serious incidences burdening central pulmonary vasculature.

Survival Statistics and Mortality Rates

Hospital admission statistics help quantify average survival odds once diagnosed and treated for a significant pulmonary embolism:

  • Overall PE survival rates approach 85% to 95% when aggregating minor to major cases. This suggests favorable odds.
  • 30-day mortality after a diagnosed major pulmonary embolism is around 5% to 10% on average.
  • Of PE cases that do prove fatal, an estimated 60% to 65% of patients die within the first few hours of initial symptoms, often before making it to a hospital for life-saving intervention.

This highlights a dual insight – survival chances are very high IF emergent treatment is obtained before too much heart strain or oxygen loss accumulates. But also that the most difficult window is on the first day of an initial major event.

Predicting individual odds also relies on the clot burden size, a patient’s age and stability, comorbidities, and fragility. Underlying health issues like respiratory disease, cancer, or heart failure worsen the prognosis. Your doctor determines personalized odds using clinical scoring systems accounting for these factors.

Aggressive Treatment Greatly Improves Survival

The most lethal aspect of a significant pulmonary embolism is the sudden obstruction of blood oxygenation and pump function strain on the heart chambers. Patients admitted for a diagnosed PE receive rapidly administered therapy to:

  • Stabilize blood pressure and respiratory distress with IV medication
  • Start quickly dissolving clots via “fibrinolytic” thrombolytic drugs
  • Prevent additional clotting initially using fast IV heparin anticoagulation
  • Provide supplemental oxygen support

Surgical embolectomy removal of huge vascular clots may also be urgently performed.

Research shows how crucial it is to stabilize the patient as rapidly as possible within the initial “golden hour” using lung-saving therapies requiring hospitalization. This is where most fatalities may be prevented. Supportive care afterward in a monitored setting, followed by discharge on oral anticoagulants prevents most recurrence or longer-term complications.

Treatment Of Blood Clots In The Lungs

Here is an overview of the main treatments for blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolisms):

Initial Emergency Treatment

  • Rapidly stabilize respiratory distress and circulation
  • Supplemental oxygen to treat low oxygen levels
  • Fluids and medication to improve blood pressure
  • Pain medication for chest discomfort

Clot Dissolving Medications

  • Thrombolytic drugs like tPA break down clots fastest but increase bleeding risk
  • Newer oral anticoagulants are safer and easier to administer than older injected or IV drugs

Anticoagulant Medications

  • Prevents additional clot formation and growth
  • Usually injected heparin first, transitioned to oral drugs like Xarelto, and Eliquis after stabilization
  • Taking for 3-6 months prevents most recurrence

Clot Removal Procedures

  • Embolectomy catheter to suction large central clots
  • Very large clots may require urgent surgical removal
  • Indicated only when severe blockage doesn’t respond to drugs

Secondary Prevention

  • Wearing compression stockings when immobile
  • Following anticoagulant therapy durations fully
  • Managing underlying disorders promoting clots
  • Lifestyle measures like ideal weight and regular activity

The key is rapidly delivering life-saving intervention in the initial critical hours by getting to an emergency room, followed by anticoagulation treatment tailored to prevent further lung damage or strain on the heart.

Risk Factors to Avoid

While a minority of PE events are unpreventable, over 70% of pulmonary embolism cases manifest from avoidable triggers and risk factors such as:

  • Prolonged immobility after recent surgeries or hospital stays
  • Trauma and major fractures, especially of lower limbs
  • Congestive heart failure exacerbating sluggish venous return
  • Obesity puts pressure on veins and alters clotting capacity
  • Estrogen therapy or contraceptives boosting coagulation
  • Certain cancers or genetic factors promote blood clots
  • Prior history of venous thrombosis or known clotting disorder
  • Smoking and vaping – toxins alter the blood and vessels
  • Pregnancy which mechanically/chemically alters circulation

Addressing these common underlying issues via compression stockings when immobilized, weight management, smoking cessation, avoiding unnecessary hormones, and prompt rehabilitation after procedures or fractures can all significantly reduce your pulmonary embolism risk.

Of course, some scenarios like heart failure or cancer may not be modifiable. But avoiding drug-induced clots, compression garments when resting, hydration, light movement, and knowing your risks make a profound difference. Catching other venous clots early before they travel to the lung arteries also vastly improves outcomes before deterioration.

Response to Anticoagulant Medications

Standard therapies like LMWH, warfarin, and direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) all limit clot worsening and new development by preventing fibrin strands from perpetuating uncontrolled mesh formation. However, they cannot actively dissolve masses already created before starting treatment. Rapid initiation of anticoagulation provides major benefits by halting extension so the body’s endogenous fibrinolysis slowly cleans up existing clots over time.

Up to 7% of patients manifest Heparin resistance, forcing alternative anticoagulation if PTT blood tests don’t respond appropriately. Direct thrombin inhibitors like argatroban work differently for these patients to suppress clot amplification when heparin binding proves inadequate.

Hitting target therapeutic windows efficiently improves outcomes. Delayed initiation, poor medication adherence, or loss of follow-up hampers survival by enabling repeat events. However, maintaining anticoagulation levels too high also potentiates bleeding into lungs damaged by infarction. Doctors must continually balance these competing concerns when prescribing therapies long-term post-PE.

Complications Affecting Prognosis

Lung tissue permanently dies when blood supply ceases over 60 to 90 minutes—jumpstarting an inflammatory cascade and causing fluid leakage into air sacs. Pneumonia, lung collapse, pulmonary hypertension or right-sided heart failure cause further lung impairment in 15% to 25% of PE patients within 6 months.

However, some survivors experience post- PE Syndrome’s long-term breathlessness, chest pain, fatigue, deconditioning, PTSD, and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension despite navigating the initial hospitalization relatively smoothly. This complication comes from delayed vascular and cardiopulmonary repair processes that complicate the full restoration of function.

Which Foods Are Responsible For Blood Clots In The Lungs?

Here are some of the main foods that may contribute to or worsen the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism blood clot in the lungs:

Foods with Vitamin K

  • Leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Soybeans, edamame, tofu
  • Beef liver
  • Certain oils like canola oil, soybean oil

Vitamin K is essential for health but can diminish the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications sometimes used to treat existing clots. This makes maintaining a consistent vitamin K intake important.

Foods High in Saturated Fats

  • Fatty red meats
  • Processed meats like sausages, salami
  • Butter and lard
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Palm and coconut oils
  • Many fried foods

High saturated fats negatively impact blood vessel health and blood flow over time. They also contribute to obesity, another risk factor, and inflammation.

There are no foods that directly cause blood clots in the lungs. However, the foods above may tip the balance of your overall circulatory health in an unfavorable clot-promoting direction when consumed in excess. Focusing on anti-inflammatory foods high in plant nutrients better supports vascular health and ideal blood flow.

Which Food Increases The Chances Of Surviving A Blood Clot In The Lungs?

Here are some of the top foods and nutrients that may help increase the chances of surviving a blood clot in the lungs:

Fatty Fish and Fish Oil

  • Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines
  • High in omega-3s that help reduce clotting and inflammation

Dark Leafy Greens

  • Spinach, kale, swiss chard, broccoli
  • Rich sources of vitamin K to support healthy blood clotting


  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
  • Contains antioxidants that improve blood vessel health


  • Has the enzyme bromelain that breaks down fibrin and may help dissolve clots


  • Helps thin the blood mildly and improves circulation


  • The curcumin may help prevent clots from becoming larger

Tart Cherry Juice

  • Reduces inflammation linked to clot formation

In addition to eating those foods, staying hydrated, active, and maintaining a healthy body weight further supports lung and cardiovascular function. Managing any underlying conditions is also key.

Focusing on an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and omega-3s can create a terrain less prone to recurrent clotting.

Catching Clots Early Saves Lives

In essence, pulmonary emboli survival odds fall on a bell curve. The bulk of cases result in complete recovery with quick-acting anticoagulant treatment. But the ability to intervene before hemodynamic compromise in massive clots dwindling oxygenation separates positive from negative outcomes quite starkly in severe cases. Therapies also hold the potential for better efficacy in treating fresh clots before dense fibrin weaves permanent damage. Rehabilitation from post-syndrome lingers long after discharge for some previously functional patients regardless of clot size. Still, maintaining awareness of subtle symptoms and promptly seeking care after onset remains key to forging positive prognosis even in worst-case scenarios. With quick action, pulmonary emboli transform into conquerable beasts rather than losing battles.

Key Takeaways

  • Small peripheral clots cause fewer lasting issues than central blockages
  • Anticoagulant medication response highly impacts clot stabilization
  • Delays in treatment worsen mortality odds exponentially
  • Developing post-PE hypertension or heart failure threatens survival
  • Immediate therapy erodes clots before they permanently destroy tissue


Do blood thinners break up clots in the lungs?

Not directly. Medications like Heparin just prevent clots from worsening by inhibiting thrombin’s role in perpetuating fibrin strands. Natural fibrinolytic slowly degrade existing clots over time. Alteplase IV r-tPA works faster by activating plasminogen to dissolve clots.

How long do lung blood clots take to go away?

About 60% of pulmonary emboli resolve within 3 months with anticoagulant medication. Large clots may take over a year to fully dissolve. Some residual narrowing often remains long-term, predisposing to future recurrence and pulmonary hypertension in a portion of patients.

What dissolves blood clots in the lungs fastest?

Powerful fibrinolytic drugs like IV tPA rapidly break up lung clots but come with a bleeding risk and are not used routinely. Catheter-directed thrombolysis combined with anticoagulants often works faster and safer than drugs alone for massive clots.

Can you feel a blood clot in your lung?

Potential symptoms signaling pulmonary embolus include sudden unexplained shortness of breath, stabbing chest pain worsened by deep breaths, rapid heart rate, lightheadedness, fever, and coughing up blood. But 1 in 3 cases shows no warning manifestations prior to onset at all.

Last Words

Estimating survivability after pulmonary embolism proves multifaceted, influenced heavily by clot size, location, treatment response, and a host of complex secondary cardiopulmonary variables. Maintaining awareness of subtle symptoms and immediately seeking evaluation after onset gives patients the widest window for intervention before permanent damage sets in. Starting anticoagulation rapidly, even in seemingly mild cases, keeps clots localized and unable to amplify silently. Aggressive prevention of secondary complications and recurrence also favors recovery. While mortality odds vary widely in this common cardiopulmonary emergency, timely specialized treatment tips the odds favorably towards survivorship for all but the most severe thromboembolic cases.


My name is Selina, a medical specialist blogger helping people access treatment for 5+ years. Although blogging awhile, only recently deeply engaged. This past year my most productive, providing hospital reviews and info on symptoms, diagnoses and diseases. Also offer guidelines to help readers navigate healthcare. Goal to continue increased content pace to assist many. Aim to facilitate treatment and empower advocacy through writing.

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