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Acute Pulmonary Embolism

What Is Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary arteries transport oxygen-depleted blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries. This generally occurs when a blood clot (embolus) travels from the leg to the lung.

Since pulmonary embolism almost always occurs in combination with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the conditions are often referred to as venous thromboembolism.

What Are Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors?

Although anyone can develop DVT and pulmonary embolism, factors that increase your risk include:

  • Immobility
  • Medications
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Increased number of red blood cells (polycythemia)
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgery
  • Damage to blood vessel walls

Pulmonary embolism can lead to pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension is when the blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries increases. This happens because the obstruction in the pulmonary arteries makes it harder for the lower right side of your heart (right ventricle) to push blood through the lungs.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism?

Symptoms can vary, but common signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood or bloody mucus.

Learn more about symptoms to watch out for >

How Is Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and review your blood test results. You may also need a chest X-ray, ultrasound or other imaging test to further diagnose your condition.

Learn more about how we diagnose pulmonary embolism >

How Is Pulmonary Embolism Treated?

Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical therapies such as clot removal and vein filter.

Learn about treatment options >

IMPORTANT: Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough that produces bloody sputum.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat acute pulmonary embolism.