A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that occurs in the lungs.

  • Can damage part of the lung due to limited blood flow, decrease oxygen levels in the blood, and affect other organs as well. Large or multiple blood clots can be fatal.

The blockage can be life-threatening.

  • Results in the death of one-third of people who go undiagnosed or untreated
    • Immediate emergency treatment greatly increases chance of avoiding permanent damage to the lung.

Pulmonary embolisms are most often caused by deep vein thrombosis, a condition in which blood clots form in veins deep in the body.

  • The blood clots that most often cause pulmonary embolisms begin in the legs or pelvis.

Factors that increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism include:

  • cancer
  • a family history of embolisms
  • fractures of the leg or hip
  • hypercoagulable states or genetic blood clotting disorders, including Factor V Leiden, prothrombin gene mutation, and elevated levels of homocysteine
  • a history of heart attack or stroke
  • major surgery
  • obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • age over 60 years
  • taking estrogen or testosterone

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism depend on the size of the clot and where it lodges in the lung.

  • Most common symptom is shortness of breath; may be gradual or sudden.

Other symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • anxiety
  • clammy or bluish skin
  • chest pain that may extend into your arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder
  • fainting
  • irregular heartbeat
  • lightheadedness
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • restlessness
  • spitting up blood
  • weak pulse


  • Physician may do/request:
    • History & Physical Exam
    • Other Additional tests such as:
      • chest X-ray
      • electrocardiography (ECG)
      • MRI
      • CT scan
      • pulmonary angiography
      • duplex venous ultrasound
      • venography
      • D-dimer test



  • Anticoagulants i.e.heparin, warfarin
  • Clot dissolvers (thrombolytics)
  • Surgery

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