Pulmonary embolism, or PE, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us about pulmonary embolism?
Sure thing, Dr. Flemings. A blood clot that forms in one part of the body and travels to another part of the body is called an embolus. PE is usually caused by an embolus that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg.
PE can be life-threatening if it's not diagnosed and treated right away. The blockage causes a lack of blood flow to the lung tissue, which can permanently damage the lung. It can also cause low oxygen levels in the blood, depriving the body's organs of the oxygen-rich blood they need to function properly.
The signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
- Unexplained shortness of breath
- Problems breathing
- Chest pain
- Coughing or coughing up blood, and
- An arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat
Treatments include medications that thin the blood and decrease its ability to clot. In emergency situations, medications that dissolve or break up blood clots may be administered. Alternatively, a catheter inserted into a vein through the groin or arm may be used to remove the clot.