A 49-year old Philadelphia woman was admitted to Temple University Hospital emergency room with difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, and swelling in her legs. Her tests revealed that she had blood clots in her lungs—a condition called Pulmonary Embolism (PE). These clots caused right-sided heart failure and elevated blood pressure in her lungs. She reported having a history of blood clots in her lungs and legs.1
Halfway around the world in Urmia, Iran, a 42-year old woman arrived at Seyyed-al Shohada University Hospital with some of the same symptoms. Complaining of difficulty breathing and chest pain, doctors ran tests and found she, too, had a blood clot in her right pulmonary artery—the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs—and another in her left leg.2
Both women were treated for their blood clots and something else entirely—an enlarged uterus caused by uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous pelvic tumor in women over age 30.2 And although these growths don’t cause health problems in the majority of cases, 25 percent of reproductive age women with fibroids will experience heavy painful periods and bulk symptoms like constipation, pelvic pressure, and a rare complication many would never expect—blood clots.3
Ranging in size, uterine fibroids can be very small or grow to the size of a softball and larger. In unusual cases, these larger fibroids can compress adjacent blood vessels in the pelvis and those leading to the heart and lungs, slowing blood flow and causing clot formation.2
According to the American Journal of Case Reports, and as seen in these two women, the most common blood clots associated with a fibroid-related enlarged uterus were PE found in the lungs and clots in the legs called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).2
Dr. Paul Forfia, MD, Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension/Right Heart Failure and Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy Program at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, discusses in a recent article, “Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in one or multiple veins deep in the body, most commonly in the legs. The clots can break loose and travel to, get lodged in, and block blood flow in, the lungs—a condition called pulmonary embolism.”1 He further explains that these blood clots can impede “blood flow through the lungs and cause right-sided heart failure, shortness of breath, and other issues.”
Fibroid-related PE and DVT are rare but can happen quickly and may be life-threatening. Proper treatment can reduce this risk, resulting in a good prognosis. With the help of a doctor, women are encouraged to monitor fibroid growth to avoid serious health complications.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Health Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has master’s degrees in English Education and Nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering in her community.
- Forfia, P. (2016). Medical Mystery: Difficulty breathing, light-headedness in walking. Retrieved July, 25, 2016, from http://articles.philly.com/2016-05-15/news/73105069_1_pulmonary-hypertension-pulmonary-embolism-clots
- Khademvatani, K., Rezaei, Y., Kerachian, A., Seyyed-Mohammadzad, M. H., Eskandari, R., & Rostamzadeh, A. (2014). Acute pulmonary embolism caused by enlarged uterine leiomyoma: A rare presentation. American Journal of Case Reports, 15: 300-303. doi: 10.12659/AJCR.890607
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital—Center for Uterine Fibroids. (2016). About Uterine Fibroids. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://www.fibroids.net/fibroids.html