Pulmonary embolism is blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to your lungs from another part of your body — most commonly, your legs. Pulmonary embolism is a complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is clotting in the veins farthest from the surface of the body.
Pulmonary embolism can occur in otherwise healthy people. Common signs and symptoms include sudden and unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough that may bring up blood-tinged sputum.
Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, but immediate treatment with anti-clotting medications can greatly reduce the risk of death. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs also can help protect you against pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when blood clots (emboli) become lodged in a lung artery, blocking blood flow to lung tissue. Blood clots often originate in the legs. ...
Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clot and your overall health — especially the presence or absence of underlying lung disease or heart disease.
Common signs and symptoms include:
Other signs and symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include:
When to see a doctor
Pulmonary embolism occurs when a clump of material, most often a blood clot, gets wedged into an artery in your lungs. These blood clots most commonly originate in the deep veins of your legs, but they can also come from other parts of your body. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Not all DVT blood clots result in pulmonary embolism.
Occasionally, other substances can form blockages within the blood vessels inside your lungs. Examples include:
It's rare to experience a solitary pulmonary embolism. In most cases, multiple clots are involved. The lung tissue served by each blocked artery is robbed of fuel and may die. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.
Because pulmonary embolism almost always occurs in conjunction with deep vein thrombosis, most doctors refer to the two conditions together as venous thromboembolism (VTE).
Although anyone can develop blood clots leading to pulmonary embolism, certain factors can increase your risk.
It is rare for children to develop DVT or VTE.
Blood clot in leg
The blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism usually originate in the deep veins of the leg. ...
Preparing for your appointment
Most cases of pulmonary embolism are initially evaluated in emergency departments or urgent care centers. If you think you might have a pulmonary embolism, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or emergency medical help.
What you can do
For pulmonary embolism, some basic questions to ask include:
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask you a number of questions to help diagnose your condition, such as:
Tests and diagnosis
Pulmonary embolism can be difficult to diagnose, especially in people who have underlying heart or lung disease. For that reason, your doctor will likely order a series of tests to help find the cause of your symptoms, including:
Treatments and drugs
Prompt treatment of pulmonary embolism is essential to prevent serious complications or death.
Surgical and other procedures
Hospital care often involves prevention of DVT. There are also precautions you can take yourself.
Preventive steps in the hospital
Preventive steps while traveling
Compression stockings (also called support stockings) compress your legs, promoting circulation. A stocking butler may help you put on the stockings. ...
Last Updated: 2011-09-27
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