Pulmonary Embolism

Also Known As:

PE, Lung Embolism

What is a Pulmonary Embolism?

An Embolus is an unattached particle which has been carried through the bloodstream away from its origin.

A Pulmonary Embolism is a serious condition that occurs when an embolus moves through the bloodstream and blocks a blood vessel in the lungs.

A Pulmonary Embolism can cause a sudden decrease in blood flow through the lungs. This restriction of oxygen-rich blood supply (Ischemia) can lead to tissue death (Infarction) in the lungs, as well as affecting other organs.


Pulmonary Embolisms are most often caused by Deep Vein Thrombosis. This is a condition in which blood clots form in veins deep in the body. When a piece of the blood clot breaks away it can move through the bloodstream to the lungs.

Factors that can increase the risk of developing some form of a Pulmonary Embolism include:
•   Deep Vein Thrombosis
•   A personal or family history of thrombosis or embolism
•   Inheriting a blood-clotting disorder
•   Prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay, or paralysis
•   Injury or surgery
•   Pregnancy
•   Taking estrogen or testosterone
•   Being overweight or obese
•   Smoking
•   Cancer and cancer treatments
•   Heart failure
•   Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying


The symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism depend on the size of the clot and where it lodges in the lung.

Symptoms may be gradual or sudden, and can include:
•   Shortness of breath
•   Anxiety
•   Clammy or bluish skin
•   Chest pain that may extend into your arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder
•   Fainting
•   Irregular heartbeat
•   Light-headedness
•   Rapid breathing
•   Rapid heartbeat
•   Restlessness
•   Spitting up blood
•   Weak pulse

Diagnosis & Treatment

A Pulmonary Embolism requires emergency medical treatment. In some cases, this condition can be difficult to diagnose, especially if you have an underlying lung or heart condition, such as emphysema or high blood pressure.

A Pulmonary Embolism is diagnosed by a Doctor using a physical examination, blood tests and scans. The Doctor may order the following tests:
•   Ultrasound Scan
•   MRI Scan
•   X-Ray
•   CT Scan
•   D-Dimer Test
•   Angiogram
•   Electrocardiogram (ECG)

The exact treatment for a Pulmonary Embolism varies depending on any pre-existing conditions a person has, as well as the underlying cause and the size of the embolus. The aim will be to control symptoms and improve the blood flow to the affected area of the body.

Treatment may include:
•   Anticoagulant Medications
•   Antiplatelet Medications
•   Thrombolytic Medications
•   Painkillers
•   Vasodilators
•   Embolectomy
•   Angioplasty
•   Inferior Vena Cava Filter

Additional Information

Also see: Thrombosis, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Embolism, Embolus

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Published Date:

19th March 2019


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