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Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism, or PE, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. The blockage usually is caused by a blood clot that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PULL-mun-ary EM-bo-lizm), or PE, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. The blockage usually is caused by a blood clot that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg.

A clot that forms in one part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to another part of the body is called an embolus (EM-bo-lus).

PE is a serious condition that can:

If a blood clot is large, or if there are many clots, PE can cause death.

Overview

PE most often is a complication of a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In DVT, blood clots form in the deep veins of the body—most often in the legs. These clots can break free... Read more about Pulmonary Embolism

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

New types of anticoagulants to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following total hip or knee replacement surgery

Venous thromboembolism is the presence of a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel within the venous system; it includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) which can be fatal. Venous thromboembolism occurs in 44% to 90% of those patients who undergo total hip or knee replacement and who do not receive anticoagulants (blood thinning drugs).

The use of anticoagulants to prevent deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a preventable complication of surgery. The blood clot can break away and travel to the lungs to cause respiratory distress and death (pulmonary embolism). Deep vein thrombosis is believed to occur less often following aortic surgery than in general surgical operations because heparin used during most vascular operations may protect against intra‐operative DVT. Vascular patients are usually older, with more co‐morbidity (presence of other diseases or conditions), and are subject to prolonged immobility, which increase the likelihood of developing DVT. Bleeding (haemorrhagic) complications could however occur if further anticoagulants are used for DVT prophylaxis during recovery.

Combined intermittent pneumatic leg compression and medication for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in high‐risk patients

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, or venous thromboembolism, are possible complications of surgery and trauma. These complications extend hospital stay and are associated with long‐term disability and death. Patients undergoing total hip or knee replacement surgery or surgery for colorectal cancer are at high risk of venous thromboembolism. Sluggish venous blood flow, increased blood clotting and blood vessel endothelial injury are contributing factors. Treating more than one of these causes may improve prevention. Mechanical intermittent pneumatic leg compression reduces venous stasis while medications such as aspirin and anticoagulants such as low molecular weight heparin reduce blood clotting. The medications can also increase the risk of bleeding.

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Summaries for consumers

New types of anticoagulants to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following total hip or knee replacement surgery

Venous thromboembolism is the presence of a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel within the venous system; it includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) which can be fatal. Venous thromboembolism occurs in 44% to 90% of those patients who undergo total hip or knee replacement and who do not receive anticoagulants (blood thinning drugs).

Apixaban (Eliquis) for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: Overview

Apixaban (trade name Eliquis) has been approved for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism in adults since July 2014.

The use of anticoagulants to prevent deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a preventable complication of surgery. The blood clot can break away and travel to the lungs to cause respiratory distress and death (pulmonary embolism). Deep vein thrombosis is believed to occur less often following aortic surgery than in general surgical operations because heparin used during most vascular operations may protect against intra‐operative DVT. Vascular patients are usually older, with more co‐morbidity (presence of other diseases or conditions), and are subject to prolonged immobility, which increase the likelihood of developing DVT. Bleeding (haemorrhagic) complications could however occur if further anticoagulants are used for DVT prophylaxis during recovery.

See all (65)

More about Pulmonary Embolism

Photo of an adult

Also called: Pulmonary thromboembolism, PE

See Also: Deep Vein Thrombosis

Other terms to know:
Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

Keep up with systematic reviews on Pulmonary Embolism:

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