Pulmonary Edema

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Understanding COPD

What is the treatment for pulmonary edema?

The treatment of pulmonary edema largely depends on its cause and severity.

Most cases of cardiac pulmonary edema are treated by using diuretics (water pills) along with other medications for heart failure. In some situations, appropriate treatment can be achieved as an outpatient by taking oral medications. If the pulmonary edema is more severe or it is not responsive to oral medications, then hospitalization and the use of intravenous diuretic medications may be necessary.

The treatment for noncardiac causes of pulmonary edema varies depending on the cause. For example, severe infection (sepsis) is treated with antibiotics and other supportive measures, or kidney failure needs to be properly evaluated and managed.

Oxygen supplementation is necessary if the measured oxygen level in the blood is too low. In serious conditions, such as ARDS, placing a patient on a mechanical breathing machine is necessary to support their breathing while other measures are taken to treat pulmonary edema and its underlying cause.

What are the complications of pulmonary edema?

Most complications of pulmonary edema may arise from the complications associated with the underlying cause. More specifically, pulmonary edema can cause severely compromised oxygenation of the blood by the lungs. This poor oxygenation (hypoxia) can potentially lead to diminished oxygen delivery to different body organs, such as the brain.

How can pulmonary edema be prevented?

In terms of preventive measures, depending on the cause of pulmonary edema, some steps can be taken. Long-term prevention of heart disease and heart attacks, slow elevation to high altitudes, or avoidance of drug overdose can be considered preventive.

On the other hand, some causes may not completely avoidable or preventable, such as ARDS due to an overwhelming infection or a trauma.

Medically reviewed by James E Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease


"Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015

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