Pulmonary Embolism

pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot that develops in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body (most commonly from the leg), travels to an artery in the lung, and forms an occlusion (blockage) of the artery.

Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolism

Risks of pulmonary embolism that are associated with the processes that may increase the risk of a venous thromboembolism include:

  • genetic conditions that increase the risk of blood clot formation
  • surgery or trauma (especially to the legs) or orthopaedic surgery
  • situations in which mobility is limited, such as extended bed rest, flying or riding long distances, or paralysis
  • previous history of clots
  • older age
  • cancer and cancer therapy
  • certain medical conditions, such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and inflammatory bowel disease (chronic inflammation of the digestive tract)
  • certain medications, such as oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormone replacement therapy (estrogen pills for postmenopausal women)
  • pregnancy (during and after pregnancy, including cesarean section)
  • obesity
  • varicose veins (enlarged veins in the legs)
  • cigarette smoking

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

The following are the most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism. However, each individual may experience pulmonary embolism symptoms differently:

  • sudden shortness of breath (most common)
  • chest pain (usually worse with breathing)
  • a feeling of anxiety
  • a feeling of dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • palpitations (heart racing)
  • coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • sweating
  • low blood pressure
  • symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for an aneurysm may include any, or a combination, of a chest x-ray, ventilation-perfusion scan, pulmonary angiogram, CT scan, MRI, duplex ultrasound, laboratory tests or electrocardiogram.

Treatments for Pulmonary Embolism

Treatment of pulmonary embolism include anticoagulants, fibrinolytic therapy, vena cava filter, pulmonary embolectomy or percutaneous thrombectomy.

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your signs and symptoms
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

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