What is it?

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage of an artery in the lungs by a substance that has moved from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream (embolism). the blockage may impair gas exchange in the lungs.
PE usually results from a blood clot in the leg that travels to the lung. The risk of blood clots is increased by cancer, prolonged bed rest, smoking, certain genetic conditions causing hyper-coagulation, estrogen-based medication, pregnancy, obesity, and after some types of surgery. A small proportion of cases are due to the embolization of air, fat, or amniotic fluid.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Septic Pulmonary Embolism
- Iatrogenic Pulmonary Embolism and Infarction

Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism are typically sudden in onset and may include one or many of the following: shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain usually worsened by breathing, cough and coughing up blood. Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg may also be present, such as a red, warm, swollen, and painful leg.
other signs of a PE include low blood oxygen levels, rapid heart rate, and sometimes a mild fever. Severe cases can lead to passing out and abnormally low blood pressure.


the doctor will start with a full physical examination and will ask you questions about your health, your medical history and your currant symptoms. Accordingly, your doctor will decide whether to perform additional tests, in order to establish a diagnosis. These tests may include: blood tests, CT scan, chest X-ray, ultrasound of the limbs, Echocardiogram and ECG.


The mainstay of treatment is anticoagulant therapy. These are medications that prevent your blood from making a clot. The duration of treatment may be a few months or a life-time, depending on your risk factors and the cause for the PE. Supportive treatments, such as oxygen and pain relievers may be required as well.
A massive PE, causing hemodynamic instability (shock and/or low blood pressure) may require thrombolysis – the destruction of the clot with either medication or surgery.
Insertion of a filter into one of your major blood vessels, the inferior vena cava (IVC filter), may be recommended if you can’t take anticoagulants.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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