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Harry is a 55-year-old college professor who teaches a night class in a small town about 50 miles from his home. One night, as he walked to his car after class, Harry noticed that his right leg was uncomfortable. When he arrived home, about 90 minutes later, Harry realized that the calf of his right leg had become very swollen. When he extended his knee and plantar flexed his foot, the pain in his right leg increased. Harry thought this might be a serious condition, so he drove to the hospital. In the emergency room, technicians performed a Doppler test, which monitors the flow of blood through blood vessels. The test confirmed that a thrombus had formed in one of the deep veins of Harry’s right leg. His pain and edema were consistent with the presence of a venous thrombosis. Harry was admitted to the hospital, and his physician prescribed intravenous (IV) heparin. About 4 a.m., Harry experienced an increase in his respiratory rate, his breathing became labored, he felt pain in his chest and back, and his arterial oxygen levels decreased. In response to these changes, Harry’s physician increased the amount of heparin. The chest pain subsided, and Harry’s respiratory movements improved over the next 24 hours. The next day, a CT scan revealed pulmonary emboli, but no infarctions of the lung. The edema in Harry’s leg also slowly improved. Harry remained in the hospital for several days, during which heparin was continued and then oral coumadin was prescribed. Frequent blood samples were taken to determine Harry’s prothrombin time. After about a week, Harry was released from the hospital. His physician, however, prescribed oral coumadin for at least several months. In addition, Harry was required to have his prothrombin time checked periodically.
If a thrombus in the posterior tibial vein gave rise to an embolus, name in order the parts of the circulatory system the embolus would pass through before lodging in a blood vessel in the lungs. Explain why the lungs are the most likely places the embolus will lodge.