American Idol’s Michael Johns Dies From Blood Clot

Season 7 American Idol contestant Michael Johns has died. The 35-yr-old  Australian, who finished 8th, reportedly died of a “blood clot in his ankle.”

According to People magazine, Johns’ web administrator tweeted:

“It is with a heavy heart and inconsolable sadness that we confirm the passing of our friend Michael Johns…. Our family is devastated by the passing of our beloved Michael, a wonderful husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from all corners of the globe. Please keep Michael in your thoughts and respect our need to grieve privately in this difficult time.”

TMZ is reporting that Johns “went to a doctor on Thursday to check out the pain he had been feeling in his ankle … the swelling and bruising had made their way up to his leg.” He was cleared to go home but “the next afternoon at his friends apartment … Johns’ body was found on the couch unresponsive. When paramedics arrived, he was already dead.”

American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson tweeted the following responses to his death:

simon cowell michael johnsrandy jackson michael johns

How can a blood clot kill you?

Blood clots in the legs, known as deep vein thromboses (DVT) are blood clots that forms in a vein deep in the body. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. Although DVTs can occur anywhere in the body, most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh.

A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus. It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism, or PE. This can be a life-threatening emergency!

Deep vein thrombosisWhat Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Blood clots can form in the body’s deep veins when:

  • Damage occurs to a vein’s inner lining. This damage may result from injuries caused by physical, chemical, and biological factors. Such factors include surgery, serious injury, inflammation, or an immune response.
  • Blood flow is sluggish or slow. Lack of motion can cause sluggish or slowed blood flow. This may occur after surgery, in those who are bedridden for a period of time, or in people traveling in a confined space for a long time.
  • Blood is thicker or more likely to clot than usual. Certain inherited conditions (such as factor V Leiden) increase blood’s tendency to clot. This also is true of treatment with hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

The signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may be related to DVT itself or to pulmonary embolism (PE). Both DVT and PE can cause serious, possibly life-threatening complications if not treated, and a physician should be consulted immediately.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Only about half of the people with DVT have symptoms. These symptoms occur in the leg affected by the deep vein clot. They include:

  • Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg
  • Pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may feel only when standing or walking
  • Increased warmth in the area of the leg that’s swollen or in pain
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg

What is a pulmonary embolus?

A pulmonary embolism, or PE, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. The blockage usually is due to a blood clot that traveled to the lung from a vein in the leg. A clot that forms in one part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to another part of the body is called an embolus.

PE is a serious condition that can cause:

  • Permanent damage to part of the lung from lack of blood flow to lung tissue
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Damage to other organs in the body from not getting enough oxygen

If a blood clot is large, or if there are many clots, PE can cause death.

Symbols of Pulmonary Embolism

Some people don’t know they have DVT until they have signs or symptoms of PE. Symptoms of PE include:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Coughing up blood

Rapid breathing and a fast heart rate also may be signs of PE.

Who is at risk for a pulmonary embolus?

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs equally in men and women. Although risk increases with age, other factors can also increase risk, such as:

  • Recent surgery
  • Long periods of immobility (such as bed rest because of an illness, long plane flights)
  • Cancer
  • Heart problems
  • Taking oral contraceptives
  • Previous stroke or heart attack

Treatment
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is treated with medicines, procedures, and other therapies. The main goals of treating PE are to stop the blood clot from getting bigger and keep new clots from forming.

Treatment may include medicines to thin the blood and slow its ability to clot. If symptoms are life threatening, a doctor may use a medicine, such as TPA, to dissolve the clot more quickly. Rarely, physicians may use surgery or another procedure to remove the clot.

Outlook

At least 100,000 cases of PE occur each year in the United States. PE is the third most common cause of death in hospitalized patients. If left untreated, about 30 percent of patients who have PE will die. Most of those who die do so within the first few hours of the event.

Other celebrity deaths due to pulmonary embolism include Dennis Farina and Heavy DSerena Williams also had a pulmonary embolus after a deep vein thrombosis, and had to undergo emergency surgical treatment.

For more information about pulmonary embolism, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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