Navigate Up

Acute Pulmonary Embolism and Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the obstruction of lung blood vessels, usually by a blood clot.

PE can:

  • Block blood flow into the lungs and can be life threatening
  • Form in the legs, break loose and then travel to the lung

Blood Clot Risks

The following can increase the risk of developing blood clots that could cause PE:

  • Smoking
  • Inactivity for long periods — such as following surgery or hospitalization, or during a long flight or car trip
  • Cancer

If the blood clot is large enough, it may lead to sudden death.

Smaller clots can reduce the blood flow to the lungs and might cause:

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

The most common symptoms of PE include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that is worse with deep breath
  • Coughing up pink secretions or bloody mucus
  • Fast heart rate or skipped beats

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment Options

A blood clot may dissolve on its own, but this usually takes a few weeks.

Treatment for a PE typically includes blood thinners (such as Heparin or Coumadin) to prevent more blood clots from forming and causing further damage into the heart or the lungs.

Therapy with blood thinners might be for a few months or some might need treatment for the rest of their lives.

Make an Appointment Today

To schedule an appointment at the UPMC Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Program, contact us at:

Learn More About Pulmonary Embolism

UPMC Patient Education Materials:

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with the UPMC Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Program team, call toll-free at
1-877-PH4-UPMC, or email​​

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |