18 Interesting Facts About Pulmonary Embolism And Its Causes & Symptoms

Here are the top interesting facts about pulmonary embolism:

#1 Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs from another part of the body, commonly from the legs.

#2 A blood clot which forms in one part of the body and moves in the bloodstream to another part of the body has a medical term of an embolus.

#3 These blockages result in areas in the lung where the interruption of blood flow does not allow the carbon dioxide (CO2) waste to be delivered to the air sacs for removal. Due to the fact that these clots block blood flow to the lungs, PE can be life-threatening.

#4 Sometimes, a PE can result from an embolus which is created from the amniotic fluid, fat droplets, or some other particle that enters the bloodstream.

#5 This condition most frequently is a complication of a disease with the medical term of – deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In this condition, blood clots form in the deep veins of the body, usually in the legs. These can move through the bloodstream to the lungs, and, ultimately, block an artery.

#6 The warning signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include – anxiety, shortness of breath, general soreness, chest pain, pain in the legs or arms, coughing up pink foam, and the loss of skin color below the clot.

#7 The exact number of individuals affected by DVT/PE is currently unknown, however, approximately 900,000 individuals in the United States are affected each year. More than fifty percent of all diagnosed cases of PE in the US occur in sufferers in nursing homes or hospitals. In the European Union, PE affects approximately 430,000 patients every year.

#8 In the United States, PE and DVT may be responsible for about 100,000 deaths per year. The majority of people who die do so within 30 to 60 minutes after the first signs and symptoms start. This condition is quite difficult to diagnose. For instance, less than 10 percent of individuals who die from a PE was diagnosed with the condition.


#9 About fifty percent of the individuals who have this condition have no symptoms. Also, the symptoms and signs a patient has and how severe they are will usually depend on how big the PE is and where it is.

#10 Symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath, that can develop gradually or come on suddenly;
  • coughing up blood;
  • low blood pressure;
  • a feeling of lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting;
  • bluish-colored skin;
  • chest pain – stabbing pain which may be worse when the patient breathes in;
  • occasionally, a blood clot that is big enough to block lung circulation can even lead to sudden death.


#11 This condition may be caused by a variety of things, including –

  • a blood clot;
  • the amniotic fluid that may be forced into the pelvic veins during childbirth;
  • the fat that can escape from the bone marrow when a bone is fractured;
  • air bubbles;
  • cancerous tumor fragments.

#12 Many risk factors contribute to the development of PE, including:

  • sitting for a long time (like – in a car or on an airplane);
  • an extended period of bed rest (for instance, individuals who are confined to bed after a severe illness or injuries);
  • bone fracture;
  • inactivity;
  • surgery, particularly those involving the pelvis, hip, or knee;
  • according to statistics, the risk of PE is higher in smokers, individuals aged over 40, people who are obese, or people who have a family history of blood clots.

#13 A few conditions increase the probability of having a PE, such as – taking the hormone estrogen or medicines similar to it and a broken hip or leg.

#14 Cancer increases the risk for this condition even more. Nevertheless, the majority of individuals who have PE do not have cancer.

#15 A woman is at a higher than usual risk of having a PE if she is or had recently been pregnant since, during pregnancy, the weight of the unborn baby pressing on veins in the pelvis (the headquarters for reproductive organs) can slow blood returning from the legs.


#16 This condition is usually detected through the following tests:

  • magnetic resonance imaging (a non-invasive imaging technology) of the lungs or legs;
  • ultrasound of the leg, a pain-free and risk-free procedure that helps to identify blood clots in people who cannot have an X-ray;
  • pulmonary angiogram;
  • blood tests;
  • lung scan;
  • computed tomography scan.


#17 Since the treatment of this condition is complicated and can cause many side-effects, it is essential to have a correct diagnosis. It is treated with procedures (like using a catheter to reach the blood clot), medicines (anticoagulants or blood thinners), and other therapies (like – graduated compression stockings).


#18 Prevention of this condition include – regular moderate physical exercise (at least 90 minutes of walking per day), avoiding foods that are bad for the cardiovascular system, staying at a healthy weight, and avoiding long periods of inactivity.

Images credit – Shutterstock

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