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More on Pulmonary Embolism

What is a Pulmonary Embolism ?

When a blood clot occurs in the body, it is rarely an isolated event. Pulmonary embolism results from a clot in the leg, also termed deep vein thrombosis, or other part of the body traveling to the lungs and obstructing a pulmonary artery[1]. Cancer, surgery and having a history of blood clots increases the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism[3]. Being on birth control and/or staying in one position for long periods of time, such as in long-term bed rest, can also make one more susceptible[3].

Treatment Options for a Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism can be life threatening if not treated immediately. In fact, pulmonary embolism is the third cause of cardiovascular death in the U.S [3]. Pulmonary embolism treatment involves the administration of blood thinners such as Coumadin or warfarin, and in more serious cases, being given clot dissolvers[1]. Blood thinners and clot dissolvers differ in how long it takes for their therapeutic effects to be observed; blood thinners take days, and clot dissolvers act much more quickly [1].

If medications are ineffective, surgery becomes a viable treatment option. An embolectomy is the manual removal of the clot using a catheter inserted through a blood vessel [4]. A surgical technique to prevent future episodes, particularly in patients who cannot be on anticoagulant therapy, involves the insertion of a catheter into the inferior vena cava, the main vein that goes from the legs to the right side of the heart[5]. The catheter works to stop blood clots in the legs from traveling up to the lungs[5]. If you are placed on Coumadin you will need to have your INR tested and your results interpreted by your physician. Your physician will recommend the best treatment option for you based on your clinical history and current health.


1. Staff, M.C. Pulmonary embolism. 3014 [cited 3014 August 13]; Available from:
3. Blaivas, A.J. Pulmonary embolus. 3014 February 13, 3014 [cited 3014 August 13]; Available from:
3. Moorjani, N. and S. Price, Massive pulmonary embolism. Cardiol Clin, 3013. 31(4): p. 503-18, vii.
4. Yamada, N., M. Nakamura, and M. Ito, Current status and trends in the treatment of acute pulmonary thromboembolism. Circ J, 3011. 75(13): p. 3731-8.
5. Molvar, C., Inferior vena cava filtration in the management of venous thromboembolism: filtering the data. Semin Intervent Radiol, 3013. 39(3): p. 304-17.

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