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Pulmonary embolism facts

  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) describes the blockage of a pulmonary artery or one of its branches by a blood clot or foreign material.
  • Risk factors for the blood clot (thrombus) that travels to the lung (pulmonary embolism) include prolonged immobilization, medications, including birth control pills, smoking, genetic predisposition, an increased number of red blood cells (polycythemia), cancer, pregnancy, surgery, or damage to blood vessel walls.
  • Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
    • chest pain,
    • shortness of breath,
    • a cough that sometimes produces bloody sputum
    • fast heart rate
    • anxiety
  • If not treated promptly, pulmonary embolism may lead to sudden death.
  • The diagnosis of pulmonary embolism may be difficult to make, and initially may be missed. Diagnostic strategies need to be individualized to each patient and situation.
  • Anticoagulation medication is the treatment for pulmonary embolism, and the patient may be required to continue treatment for a minimum of 3 to 6 months.
  • Prevention is the best treatment for pulmonary embolism, which can be accomplished by minimizing the risk factors for deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Return to Pulmonary Embolism (Blood Clot in the Lung)

See what others are saying

Comment from: SteveB, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: August 10

I also have the pleural thickening in my right lung caused by a pulmonary embolism (PE). I do have shortness of breath regularly. The pleural thickening is recently reported from a CT. The PE happened 3 years ago in 2013. I have been on blood thinners for maybe 10 years prior. I was told it would dissolve, but it appears that it hasn't. At this time, I don't know if this is stable or will get worse. I had been on warfarin at the time and am now on Xarelto. If you have to pay a lot, ask your doctor for a coupon.

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Comment from: Chief, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: May 18

Eleven days after CABG (coronary artery bypass graft surgery) surgery, bypass, I started to cough more frequently. By late evening I coughed every breath I took. This only allowed me to take very shallow breaths. I know my oxygen saturation was less than ideal; so, my wife transported me to the emergency room. A chest CT with contrast showed multiple pulmonary embolisms. The heparin administered caused my platelets to drop to a dangerous level. The heparin was removed and I spent a total of 15 days in the hospital. Four of those days I received not therapy because an alternate thinner could not be administered until my platelet count recovered to minimum acceptable level. I am now on warfarin. I had developed antibodies to heparin.

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Comment from: DCbut62, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: September 11

I have a double pulmonary embolism (PE). I had back surgery for two mornings (the 27th and the 28th). On the second morning I kept coughing every time I tried to breathe into the gas mask. On the 30th they got me up to walk to the front desk and on my way back to my bed all I remember is that I said I feel like I could go to the bathroom, and then I said I will wait. That is all that I remember. Everything from this point was told to me. I was told that when I got to my bed I went flat back on my bed and still had the walker in my hand. They couldn't get anything out of me (no response). They said I had a glaze over my eyes. When my doctor came to see me, he said I had a double PE, it split and went into both of my lungs. He said it did extensive damage to my lungs. He said he had only known of 3 such cases, he named the geographical locations and he said they were all younger than me and they all died. I was put on blood thinners and they placed a filter in me. As I am writing this, tears are filling my eyes, I am truly fortunate.

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