URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/pulmonaryembolism.html

Pulmonary Embolism

Also called: Blood clots in the lung

Summary

What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. It usually happens when a when a blood clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. PE is a serious condition that can cause

  • Permanent damage to the lungs
  • Low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen

PE can be life-threatening, especially if a clot is large, or if there are many clots.

Who gets a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Anyone can get a pulmonary embolism (PE), but certain things can raise your risk of PE:

  • Having surgery, especially joint replacement surgery
  • Certain medical conditions, including
    • Cancers
    • Heart diseases
    • Lung diseases
    • A broken hip or leg bone or other trauma
  • Hormone-based medicines, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy and childbirth. The risk is highest for about six weeks after childbirth.
  • Not moving for long periods, such as being on bed rest, having a cast, or taking a long plane flight
  • Age. Your risk increases as you get older, especially after age 40.
  • Family history and genetics. Certain genetic changes that can increase your risk of blood clots and PE.
  • Obesity

What causes a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

The cause is usually a blood clot in the leg called a deep vein thrombosis that breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lung.

What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Half the people who have pulmonary embolism have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they can include shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing up blood. Symptoms of a blood clot include warmth, swelling, pain, tenderness and redness of the leg.

What are the treatments for a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

The goal of treatment is to break up clots and help keep other clots from forming.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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