What Is a Pulmonary Embolism? Logan’s Cause of Death in Succession, Explained

WHEN LOGAN ROY HAD a health crisis on his private jet on Episode 3 of the new and last season of Succession, the flight crew started performing chest compressions. That led many to speculate that Logan had gone into cardiac arrest, causing him to die midair.

But, in Epsiode 4, titled “Honeymoon States,” Logan’s son Kendall revealed that the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism—which Tom Wambsgams (Logan’s possibly soon-to-be ex-son-in-law) suggests may have happened while he was “trying to fish a dropped cellphone out of an airplane toilet.”

No matter how it happens and classic Succession irreverence aside, a pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common and deadly condition.


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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) isn’t sure exactly how many people have a PE each year but estimates that it could be about 900,000. About 25 percent of people who have a PE die suddenly, and 33 percent of those who survive have severe health complications, with many seeing a recurrence of the condition within 10 years, according to the CDC.

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that blocks blood flow to an artery in the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic. The blood clot usually starts in a vein in your leg and travels to your lungs. They can be life-threatening and need to be treated quickly.

PE is a potential “noncardiac cause of cardiac arrest,” according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. And, the two conditions together—which could be what happened to Logan—lead to “high mortality.”

Logan’s flight was also headed to Sweden, where he planned to close a business deal. Long-haul flights (and sitting for long periods of time) have been linked to PE and deep-vein thrombosis.

Logan’s death might have been sudden. But his health problems have been highlighted throughout the series. In the show’s pilot, he was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage. In later episodes, he fainted from heat exhaustion, became confused following a UTI, and displayed increasingly erratic (often cruel) behavior (though that might be more connected to his personality than his health).

What Are the Signs of Pulmonary Embolism?

The symptoms of PE can vary depending on the person and the severity of the blood clot, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some people don’t have any symptoms.

Here’s what you should watch for:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sharp pain that’s unexpected and shows up in your chest, arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cough, possibly with bloody mucus
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Wheezing

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms.

Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolism

You’re most at risk for developing PE if you:

  • Have a blood clot in your leg or deep vein thrombosis
  • Are inactive for a long period—such as while traveling on a long plane or car ride
  • Have had surgery or trauma to a vein
  • Have a history of heart failure or stroke
  • Are obese
  • Smoke

Pregnant women or those who’ve given birth recently, or who’re taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy are also at risk.

How Is PE Diagnosed and Treated?

Blood tests, a CT angiogram, and ultrasounds can help diagnose PE, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You might also need a pulmonary angiogram or chest x-ray.

PE is usually treated via hospitalization. The most common treatment is blood thinner medication. But you might need thrombolytic therapy, surgery, or other procedures to get the blood flow moving.

Having a PE can cause long-term problems, including pulmonary hypertension, where the blood pressure in the lungs and right side of the heart is too high, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your heart has to work harder to move blood through your vessels when there are blockages in arteries in your lungs. This causes your blood pressure to rise and weakens your heart.

How to Prevent Pulmonary Embolism

There are a few things you can do to lower your risk for a PE, including:

  • Getting more exercise—if you’ll be sitting for long time periods, try to walk around or move every hour
  • Drinking lots of water and other fluids, but limiting alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Trying not to sit cross-legged, especially for too long
  • Avoiding wearing tight-fitting clothing
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Reach out to your doctor if you or your family have a history of blood clots.

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Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

This article was originally posted here.

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