Acute Pulmonary Embolism

What is Acute Pulmonary Embolism (PE)?

Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is a serious condition, in which a vein deep in the body becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot. This blockage can reduce or completely cut off oxygen supply to the lungs, leading to reduced or complete collapse of the lung walls.

When the condition is severe, it can be life-threatening. However, most cases of acute pulmonary embolism can be treated effectively if diagnosed promptly.

Symptoms of Acute Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Common symptoms of acute pulmonary embolism include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Light-headedness

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of Acute Pulmonary Embolism

The most common causes of acute pulmonary embolism are listed below.

  • Blood clots that start in the veins of the leg, arm, or pelvis and travel to the lungs.
  • A clot that forms in a vein next to the heart and travels to the lungs.
  • A clot from an external source, such as an IV line.

Other less common causes of acute pulmonary embolism include fat particles from bone fractures, amniotic fluid, and air bubbles.

Treatment of Acute Pulmonary Embolism

A medical professional will begin treatment for acute pulmonary embolism by trying to relieve any immediate symptoms and prevent further clotting. This may involve the administration of oxygen, medications to thin the blood and break up clots, and/or drainage of the clot.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the blocked artery. In most cases, long-term treatment to prevent future emboli (such as anticoagulant medications) will also be recommended.