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Lung Center

Pulmonary Embolism Response Team Conditions and Treatments

Understanding and Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot that has formed elsewhere in the body breaks free and becomes stuck in the blood vessels that connect the heart and lungs. The most common sources of blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism are the deep veins of the legs. 

Prompt diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism is extremely important. Temple has extensive experience using a comprehensive range of diagnostic tools that can accurately and quickly diagnose the presence of these dangerous blood clots.

Diagnostic tools used may include: 

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram
  • CT (computed tomography) pulmonary angiography
  • Compression ultrasonography
  • Contrast venography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ventilation-perfusion scan with SPECT imaging
  • Blood tests
  • Right-heart catheterization
  • Pulmonary angiography

Treating Pulmonary Embolism

The specialists who make up Temple's Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) assess and categorize patients into risk-stratified groups. Once risk is assessed, treatment is determined based on the patient’s level of risk and can include:

  • Full-dose tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) via peripheral vein
  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis
  • Suction thrombectomy
  • Low-dose tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) via peripheral vein (clot buster)
  • Right ventricular support devices
  • Surgical thrombectomy
  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter
  • Intravenous heparin (blood thinner)
  • Injectable forms of low molecular weight heparin
  • Oral anticoagulants

High-Risk Pulmonary Embolism

High-risk pulmonary embolism is most often treated with clot-bursting medications. These medications can be administered at different sites of the body, depending on where the clot is located. The site where clot-bursting medication is delivered, as well as the dosage of the medication, are very important. Not every patient is a good candidate for these medications.

For these reasons, it's important for patients to be examined and treated by a team of experts, who can carefully evaluate each patient to determine and deliver the most effective treatment.

If a patient has a very high risk of bleeding, surgical removal of clots may be necessary. This is done by our highly skilled cardiovascular surgical specialists, who strive to use minimally invasive methods whenever possible, reducing scarring, blood loss and recovery time. 

A Standardized Multidisciplinary Approach to Care

One of the only lung centers in the region with a dedicated Pulmonary Embolism Response Team, the Temple Lung Center can:

  • Coordinate care among the various services involved in the management and treatment of pulmonary embolism
  • Develop protocols for the full range of available therapies
  • Improve patient outcomes

Being a founding member of the national Pulmonary Embolism Response Team Consortium, Temple’s PERT is on the leading edge of this new paradigm of care for pulmonary embolism.