Hours of immobility during long flights to games or while recovering from injuries, hard blows to the legs from contact sports, and dehydration from physical exertion all are risk factors that, when combined, may predispose professional athletes to deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism or blockage of the arteries in the organ, South Florida doctors said Friday.
A pulmonary embolism is among the medical conditions that may be affecting Miami Heat star Chris Bosh, admitted to a Miami-area hospital Thursday for lung tests.
While the condition is not rare, it often goes undiagnosed until a doctor’s visit for sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and general malaise, said Shirin Shafazand, a physician and director of pulmonary hypertension program at UHealth – University of Miami Health System.
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In such cases, doctors order tests and question the patient to diagnose a pulmonary embolism, and confirm their suspicions with a CT angiography — an imaging of the chest with dye highlighting the pulmonary arteries, allowing a physician to see the clots. For a pulmonary embolism, treatment with blood thinners begins right away.
“You don’t delay,’’ Shafazand said.
Without prompt treatment, pulmonary embolisms — depending on size, number of clots and where they lodge — could force the heart to pump harder and become enlarged, possibly leading to heart failure.
Dr. Carlos Zamora, a cardiologist for Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, said if Bosh has a pulmonary embolism, he’ll likely be on blood thinners for three to six months. Doctors typically recommend patients on blood thinners not engage in contact sports, he said, because of the risk of injury and excessive bleeding.