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Serena Williams' Pulmonary Embolism, Hematoma: FAQ

Tennis Star Recovering From Life-Threatening Blood Clot

Will Serena Williams ever play tennis again?

Pulmonary embolisms usually are not removed because the body eventually reabsorbs the clot over time. Some people fully recover, others do not.

"For most patients, the recommendation is they go on some form of anticoagulant [blood thinner] for at least three to six months, Shafazand says. "For a subset of patients, their pulmonary embolism may lead to pulmonary hypertension -- meaning there has been damage to the pulmonary arteries. In these cases, the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery is high and this has many implications down the road for the patient's health."

WebMD asked Shafazand whether Williams is likely to return to competition.

"It all depends on how her heart and lungs respond in the future in terms of recovery," she said. "In three to four months, her doctors will have to see if her pulmonary embolism is completely resolved and her heart has the proper response to exercise."

What are the risk factors for pulmonary embolism?

Risk factors for pulmonary embolism include:

  • Smoking
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progesterone
  • Recent surgery, especially on the legs or belly
  • A long hospital stay involving bed rest
  • Some cancers
  • Pregnancy and childbirth, particularly with C-section
  • Age over 70
  • Obesity

Another risk factor is hereditary. Some people who suffer pulmonary embolisms are predisposed to abnormal blood clotting.

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