Pulmonary Embolism

What is a pulmonary embolism?

An embolism is a clot, usually of blood, that can travel throughout the body. A pulmonary embolism usually travels from the deep veins of the legs, due to a condition called deep vein thrombosis, up to the arteries of the lungs where it can block blood flow and cause damage to the lungs, cause low oxygen levels in the blood and as a result, damage to other organs in the body. In some cases, a pulmonary embolism causes sudden death.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism

If you are already being treated for deep vein thrombosis or other clotting conditions, you may be taking extra precautions such as blood thinners to help prevent blood from clotting.

For many, however, there are no noticeable symptoms associated with pulmonary embolism. For others, symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

Or you may notice signs of deep vein thrombosis in the legs, such as swelling and redness in the affected area, or pain and tenderness when touching that area. Other possible warning signs are nausea, fever, clammy skin or discoloration, suggestive of inadequate blood flow.

Diagnosis and testing for pulmonary embolism

Certain blood tests along with a pulmonary angiogram and venous ultrasound can help diagnose pulmonary embolism. Depending on the seriousness of the condition, treatment may include a combination of blood thinners, certain types of leg exercises, and in some cases, surgery.

If left untreated, pulmonary embolism can be fatal. It's important to talk with your doctor if you have any circulatory concerns or have certain risk factors for pulmonary embolism.


Compression Therapy

If you have problems with the veins in your legs, you may benefit from compression therapy at Main Line Health.