Resources for Patients

Pulmonary Embolism Basics

Patients with Pulmonary embolism may be divided into low, moderate, or high risk categories depending on the severity of their symptoms. Moderate and high-risk PE are also known as submassive- and massive-PE. While treatment options for low-risk PE are well determined (anticoagulation), treatment for moderate or high-risk categories is less clear-cut and, thus, often debated. This has led to an absence in a standard process or consensus for clinicians. Furthermore, the urgency in many of these cases intensifies the already challenging decision-making process.

There is no way to predict your chances of getting pulmonary embolism, but you can familiarize yourself with its symptoms.

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage of the main artery in the lungs or one of its branches. This blockage occurs when a clot travels (embolizes) from elsewhere in the body by way of the bloodstream. PE results from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), when a blood clot in the veins of the leg or pelvis breaks off and migrates to the lung. This process is termed venous thromboembolism (VTE). As the clot reaches the pulmonary artery, blood flow becomes obstructed in the lungs. As a result, the heart experiences increased pressure on its right ventricle, and must now contract even harder to push blood into the lungs. These events lead to the symptoms and signs of PE.

 

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include difficulty breathing, chest pain on inspiration, palpitations or transient loss of consciousness, and exhaustion.  Clinical signs include low blood oxygen saturation, cyanosis(blue lips), rapid breathing, and a fast heart rate. PE can lead to abnormally low blood pressure, collapse, and even sudden death.

Although the signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism are well known, they can be subtle and often masquerade as other illnesses; therefore, PE may go unrecognized. Determining a diagnosis is a challenge only further exacerbated by the fact that patients can develop a PE in any department of a hospital. However, it is important to note that Pulmonary embolism can be prevented with proper awareness of the risk factors and prophylactic measures.

Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis

After a PE is diagnosed, a number of treatment options may be considered and the decision is typically based on the preference and purview of the medical provider. It is important to acknowledge that, presently, there are few “centers of excellence in PE” or “PE specialists”, whereby physicians and other healthcare professionals can seek diagnostic or treatment advice for their patients. Regrettably, despite the medical community’s recognition of its pervasiveness and impact, little progress has been made in streamlining care and decision-making in order to give patients access to a broad spectrum of options when considering treatment.

 

 

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

Patients with Pulmonary embolism may be divided into low, moderate, or high risk categories depending on the severity of their symptoms. Moderate and high-risk PE are also known as submassive- and massive-PE. While treatment options for low-risk PE are well determined (anticoagulation), treatment for moderate or high-risk categories is less clear-cut and, thus, often debated. This has led to an absence in a standard process or consensus for clinicians. Furthermore, the urgency in many of these cases intensifies the already challenging decision-making process.