Blood clot in the lung 'rare'

Serena Williams' absence from tennis could stretch to almost a year after two new health scares - a blood clot in her lungs followed by a haematoma - have added to her injury woes.

A haematoma is a solid swelling of clotted blood in the tissues.

Her agents confirmed Wednesday that Williams was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism last week and later needed treatment for a hematoma. The 13-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played an official match since winning Wimbledon last July because of a foot injury she sustained not on the court but at a restaurant.

What are pulmonary embolisms?

Lung blood clots, or pulmonary embolisms are more common among the elderly, sick or bedridden, and are estimated to be responsible for 10% of all deaths in hospital, according to BBC Health.

This condition occurs when there is a sudden obstruction of a lung artery owing to a blood clot that dislodged somewhere else in the body - over 90% of pulmonary emboli primarily originate from a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the leg. This leads to obstruction of the blood supply to the lung tissue and severe chest pain and shortness of breath.

If this condition is not treated aggressively, it can lead to respiratory and circulatory collapse and death.

Prof Chris Bolliger, a pulmonologist of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch said the incidence of pulmonary embolism is highly unusual in a young fit athlete. “When blood doesn’t flow properly, it forms a clot, which then dislodges, goes through the heart and get’s stuck in the lungs,” Bolliger explained.

According to Bolliger, the occurrence of pulmonary emboli in young people has been linked to the following:

  • Genetically inherited – Factor V Leiden, the most frequent hereditary blood coagulation disorder, increases the risk of venous thrombosis
  • Trauma to the leg – bleeding in the muscle, caused by a possible trauma to the leg, could lead to DVT, which can cause pulmonary emboli
  • “Economy syndrome” – Sitting still during long flights has proved to cause DVT
  • Anabolic steroids – According to Bolliger, body builders and weight lifters have acquired pulmonary emboli due to the use of anabolic steroids
  • Smoking – especially when combined with genetic proneness to pulmonary emboli
  • Unhealthy lifestyle – An obese and/or unfit individual would be more prone to this condition than a fit athlete.

 (Wilma Stassen, Health24, updated February 2011)

Sapa, Health24
FVL Thrombophilia Support Page

Read more:
Deep-vein thrombosis

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