Pulmonary embolism platelets blood clot 3D

Pulmonary embolism

What is a pulmonary embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a condition where one or more blood clots come from another part of the circulation, like the leg veins, and migrate (embolise) so that they block the arteries in the lungs (the pulmonary arteries), restricting blood flow to that area of the lung.

What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism?

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism can be mild or severe, depending on the size of the embolism, and can come on suddenly.

These symptoms can include:

What causes a pulmonary embolism?

Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot in another area of the body breaks loose and travels to the lung through the bloodstream.

The most common cause of pulmonary embolism is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is where a clot forms in the deep veins of the leg, or sometimes the arm.

The main cause of DVT is slowed blood flow that results in blood clotting. This can occur due to injury, inflammation, infection, surgery, or extended periods of sitting or lying. A long-haul flight can be a risk for developing DVT in some people.

Anatomy of Pulmonary Embolism

How is a pulmonary embolism diagnosed?

It can be hard to diagnose pulmonary embolism as the symptoms can mimic other heart or lung conditions.

Pulmonary embolism may be diagnosed through a series of tests including:

How is a pulmonary embolism treated?

A major pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency and can be fatal, so treatment should be sought immediately.

Treatment for pulmonary embolisms may include:

How can a pulmonary embolism be prevented?

The best way to prevent pulmonary embolism is to reduce your risk of developing DVT.

Reducing your risk of DVT may include:

How long does it take to recover from a pulmonary embolism?

Recovery will depend on individual circumstances, including the severity of the pulmonary embolism.

After a pulmonary embolism you may begin to feel better within a few days of treatment, though full recover may take weeks or months.

Long term damage that requires ongoing treatment may occur after a pulmonary embolism, though this is rare.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

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