A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that occurs when there’s a blockage in the lung artery, which is usually caused by a blood clot. The severity of the condition depends on many factors, including the size of the blood clot, where it’s located in the lung and how many blood clots there are. The most life-threatening type of pulmonary embolism involves large blood clots lodged in the first part of the major lung arteries.
In most cases, a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot in the leg that’s formed in a deep vein, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. If a part of this blood clot breaks away, it’s called an embolus and can cause an embolism if it travels through the circulatory system and gets stuck in one of the arteries in the lung. Rarely, a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot formed in an arm vein or in the heart.
Anyone can develop a blood clot. However, those most at risk for developing deep vein thrombosis—and a subsequent pulmonary embolism—often have poor circulation in their legs because they’ve been inactive for a long period of time or have abnormal blood clotting because of a health condition or injury to a limb.
Other factors that put a person at a higher risk for developing blood clots include:
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism usually start suddenly and may include:
Sometimes, however, the only symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are those related to deep vein thrombosis, including swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg, pain or tenderness in the leg, a feeling of warmth in the area of the leg that’s swollen or tender and red or discolored skin on the affected leg.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical attention right away by calling 911. If you’re concerned about your risk factors for developing a blood clot in the leg or a blood clot in the lung, consult with your Riverview Health primary care doctor.
When treating pulmonary embolism, the main goals are to stop the blood clot from getting bigger, to keep new clots from forming and sometimes to dissolve the clots. To do this, your doctor may recommend the following:
Doctors rarely use surgery or another procedure to remove the clot.
Remember, the interventional cardiologists and vascular surgery specialists at Riverview Health provide fast, expert treatment for pulmonary embolisms and other blood clot conditions.
If you or a loved one is at risk for a blood clot condition, take a step toward a healthier life with a $79 vascular screening package at Riverview Health. This package includes a carotid artery screening, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and an ankle brachial index test. Though this package doesn’t require a doctor’s order, you must meet specific criteria. To see if you qualify and to request an appointment, call 317.776.7247 or complete our online form.
Riverview Health evaluates and treats a wide array of vascular conditions for people living in Noblesville, Carmel, Cicero, Fishers, Sheridan and Westfield, IN.