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Pulmonary Embolism


A pulmonary embolism (PE) is the sudden blockage of a blood vessel in the lungs by an embolus. An embolus is usually caused by a blood clot, but may also be fat, air, or tumor cells. The blood clot may break loose from the blood vessels in your leg or arm. The clot travels to the lungs where it cuts off the blood supply to your lungs.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Heart monitor:

This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

You may need extra oxygen

if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Pressure stockings:

These tight stockings put pressure on your legs to increase your blood flow.

Pneumatic boots:

Inflatable boots are put on your legs. The boots are connected to an air pump. The pump tightens and loosens different areas of the boots. This helps improve blood flow.


  • Clot busters: This medicine helps break apart clots. It is given through your IV and may be given at the same time as other blood thinners.
  • Blood thinners: This medicine helps stop clots from forming in your blood. You may bleed or bruise more easily.


  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to look for signs of a lung infection or other damage.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your lungs. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Lung scan: This test is also called a V/Q scan. A small amount of radioactive dye is used to study your airflow (ventilation) and blood flow (perfusion [Q]). First, you breathe in medical gas. Pictures are taken to see how well your lungs take in oxygen. Then, dye is injected into a vein. Pictures are taken to see how blood flows in your lungs.
  • Pulmonary angiogram: This test is used to check for problems with blood flow in your heart and lungs. A catheter (long, thin, bendable tube) is placed in a vein in your neck, under your collarbone, or in your groin. The catheter is then threaded into the pulmonary artery. Dye is put into the catheter and x-rays are taken. The dye helps caregivers see your blood vessels better on the monitor. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Doppler ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to show pictures of your lungs on a monitor. An ultrasound may show the PE.


You may need surgery if you cannot take blood thinners or have recurrent blood clots. A filter may be inserted into your blood vessel to catch blood clots traveling to your lungs and heart. You may also need to have the blood clot removed.


Your have a higher risk for another PE. The blood clot may block the blood flow to your heart and lungs. This can be life-threatening. You may bleed more than expected if you take blood thinners. Without treatment, the PE can cause your lungs and other body organs to stop working. This can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.