Serena Williams Battles a Pulmonary Embolism and a Hematoma
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Whenever a young and healthy athlete gets sick, it always gets the attention of the press. The news is even more dramatic when the condition can be life-threatening, as in the case of Serena Williams, who reportedly developed a pulmonary embolism in late February 2011. While it is possible to recover fully from a pulmonary embolism, it is indeed a serious condition and requires serious medications. In addition, Ms. Williams also reportedly required treatment for a hematoma, a collection of clotted blood that forms outside of a blood vessel.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) happens when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one of the body's large veins (known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT), breaks off, and travels (embolizes) in the circulatory system back to the heart and out into the arteries that carry blood to the lungs to load up oxygen. There the clot in the lungs (embolus) then clogs the artery that provides blood supply to part of the lung, preventing the normal exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It also reduces the blood supply to the lung tissue itself. Lung tissue can die (infarct) if circulation is impaired.