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Acute Pulmonary Embolism and Pulmonary Hypertension

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What Is Acute Pulmonary Embolism?

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

A pulmonary embolism can:

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

Pulmonary embolism risks: blood clot

The following can increase the risk of developing blood clots that could cause pulmonary embolism (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:

Acute Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

The most common symptoms of an acute pulmonary embolism include:

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

Pulmonary Embolism (PE) Treatment Options

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

Acute pulmonary embolism treatment includes blood thinners, such as heparin or warfarin, to prevent more blood clots from forming and causing further damage to 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 for PE treatment today

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

Learn more about pulmonary embolism

From our HealthBeat Blog

  • Pulmonary Embolism: A Dangerous Clot
  • UPMC Patient Education Materials: