May 30, 2023
This week our Co-Host
and producer is the guest once again! The topic for this week
is Pulmonary Embolism, which is a blood clot or thrombus in the
A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a sudden blockage in a lung artery.
It usually happens when a blood
clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to
the lungs. PE is a serious condition that can cause:
- Permanent damage to the lungs
- Low oxygen levels in your blood
- Damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough
PE can be life-threatening, especially if a clot is large, or if
there are many clots.
What causes a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
The cause is usually a blood clot in the leg called a deep vein
thrombosis that breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to
Who is at risk for a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
Anyone can get a pulmonary embolism (PE), but certain things can
raise your risk of PE:
- Having surgery, especially joint
- Certain medical
- Heart diseases
- Lung diseases
- A broken hip or leg bone or other trauma
- Hormone-based medicines, such
control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- Pregnancy and childbirth. The risk is
highest for about six weeks after childbirth.
- Not moving for long periods, such as
being on bed rest, having a cast, or taking a long plane
- Age. Your risk increases as you get
older, especially after age 40.
- Family history and genetics. Certain
genetic changes that can increase your risk of blood clots and
What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
Half the people who have pulmonary embolism have no symptoms. If
you do have symptoms, they can include shortness of breath, chest
pain or coughing up blood. Symptoms of a blood clot include warmth,
swelling, pain, tenderness and redness of the leg.
How is a pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosed?
It can be difficult to diagnose PE. To make a diagnosis, your
health care provider will:
- Take your medical history, including asking about your symptoms
and risk factors for PE
- Do a physical exam
- Run some tests, including various imaging tests and possibly some blood
What are the treatments for a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
If you have PE, you need medical treatment right away. The goal
of treatment is to break up clots and help keep other clots from
forming. Treatment options include medicines and procedures.
- Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, keep blood clots from getting larger
and stop new clots from forming. You might get them as an
injection, a pill, or through an I.V. (intravenous). They can cause
bleeding, especially if you are taking other medicines that also
thin your blood, such as aspirin.
- Thrombolytics are medicines to dissolve
blood clots. You may get them if you have large clots that cause
severe symptoms or other serious complications. Thrombolytics can
cause sudden bleeding, so they are used if your PE is serious and
may be life-threatening.
- Catheter-assisted thrombus removal uses a
flexible tube to reach a blood clot in your lung. Your health care
provider can insert a tool in the tube to break up the clot or to
deliver medicine through the tube. Usually you will get medicine to
put you to sleep for this procedure.
- A vena cava filter may be used in some
people who cannot take blood thinners. Your health care provider
inserts a filter inside a large vein called the vena cava. The
filter catches blood clots before they travel to the lungs, which
prevents pulmonary embolism. But the filter does not stop new blood
clots from forming.
Can pulmonary embolism (PE) be prevented?
Preventing new blood clots can prevent PE. Prevention may
- Continuing to take blood thinners. It's also important to get
regular checkups with your provider, to make sure that the dosage
of your medicines is working to prevent blood clots but not causing
- Heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as heart-healthy eating,
exercise, and, if you smoke, quitting smoking
- Using compression stockings to
prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Moving your legs when sitting for long periods of time (such as
on long trips)
- Moving around as soon as possible after surgery or being
confined to a bed