Acute Pulmonary Embolisms


Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or typically the lower half of the body.

Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, an acute pulmonary embolism can be fatal. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death. Taking advanced measures to prevent blood clots in your legs will help protect you against pulmonary embolism.

How We Treat

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The Missouri Heart Center uses several methods to combat and prevent pulmonary embolisms from occurring including:

  • Blood thinners. These medications are often given to people at risk of clots before and after an operation.
  • Compression stockings. Compression stockings offer a safe, simple, and inexpensive way to keep blood from stagnating during and after general surgery.
  • Leg elevation. Elevating your legs when possible and during the night also can be very effective.
  • Physical activity. Exercise can help prevent pulmonary embolism and hasten recovery overall. This is one of the main reasons your nurse may push you to get up and walk despite pain at the site of your surgical incision.
  • Pneumatic compression. This treatment uses thigh-high or calf-high cuffs that automatically inflate with air and deflate every few minutes to massage and squeeze the veins in your legs.
  • Echocardiogram. This test uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture set of your heart to determine the next steps.


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Does risk of pulmonary embolisms increase if a member of my family has had it before?

Yes, if a member of your family has had a venous blood clot or a pulmonary embolism in the past, you are more prone to have the condition as well.

Does risk of pulmonary embolisms increase with travel?

With extensive travel, yes, the risk for a pulmonary embolism to form does increase. Ask your doctor for additional information on how to help prevent this.