What Is pulmonary embolism?
A pulmonary embolism (PULL-mun-ary EM-bo-lizm), or pulmonary embolism, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery, usually due to a blood clot that traveled to the lung from a vein in the leg. A clot that forms in one part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to another part of the body is called an embolus.
Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can cause:
If the blood clot is large, or if there are many clots, pulmonary embolism can cause death.
Overview of pulmonary embolism
In most cases, pulmonary embolism is a complication of a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In DVT, blood clots form in the deep veins of the body-most often in the legs. These clots can break free, travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, and block an artery.
This is unlike clots in the veins close the skin's surface, which remain in place and do not cause pulmonary embolism.
At least 100,000 cases of pulmonary embolism occur each year in the United States. Pulmonary embolism is the third most common cause of death in hospitalized patients. If left untreated, about 30 percent of patients with pulmonary embolism will die. Most of those who die do so within the first few hours of the event.
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