Friday, March 4, 2011

Serena Williams Has Serious Lung Blood Clot

Serena Williams is one of my tennis heroes and is also one of the strongest women athletes in the world.  At age 29 she has won 13 Grand Slam tennis titles.  It was a surprise to the tennis world to learn that she was hospitalized in Los Angeles with a pulmonary embolism (PE); a serious blood clot in the lungs.  These blood clots do not form in the lung. They start in veins elsewhere in the body, usually the legs or pelvis and break off and travel to the lung vessels where they obstruct blood flow.  A pulmonary embolism is often a life-threatening event and is always very serious.  Thirty percent of people with a PE die immediately without treatment.


Although it is speculation, I can try to piece the scenario together of how Serena Williams was afflicted with a PE.  She cut her foot on glass last July after winning Wimbledon and has not been in a tournament since then.  She underwent an operation in October and possibly a 2nd surgery since then.  She had a protective boot removed and then flew 6 hours to LA for the Academy Awards.  Immobilization (wearing a cast) coupled with a long flight can cause a blood clot to form in the large leg veins, a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  It is the clot from a DVT that travels to the lung and causes the PE.

It can happen to anyone. Some people have a genetic predisposition for a DVT.  Estrogen, birth control pills, smoking, prolonged immobilization, pregnancy, broken bones or trauma, underlying cancer can all be risk factors for forming a DVT.

In the hospital, we are very careful to prevent DVT by using leg supports and treatments, getting patients up and moving and even anticoagulants to prevent clots.  Patients who undergo orthopedic surgery (joint replacement or trauma repair) are at particularly high risk as is anyone who is lying in bed or immobilized for a long period of time

Serena is home recovering now and she will be on blood thinner medication for many months.

80 comments:

Kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Will she play her next match on coumadin? What would Dr. Brayer advise?

BrainDame said...

I wonder if she will ever play again...I would love to hear what others think.

Phillip said...

Seriously Dr.? Did you actually just tell the world that a PE blocks the flow of air?

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Issaquah Chiropractor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Toni Brayer, MD said...

Phillip: Glad to see you are reading carefully. Blood, not air. BTW, why are you a blocked commenter? Just askin'.

Michael Kirsch, MD: I doubt we will see her playing for the next 6 months. Just guessing.

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