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Pulmonary Embolus

Below is a pulmonary artery angiogram.
The black arrow is pointing to a large right pulmonary artery embolus (a blood clot that has traveled from another part of the circulation, in this case the legs).

Image source: Clotbuster archives

For a variety of different reasons, blood flow returning from the body to the heart through the veins can be slowed. This is most commonly occurs in the lower extremities or the pelvis. This called venous stasis. When the blood flow is slowed, blood clot formation can occur within the veins. These blood clots can cause local symptoms such as pain, warmth, and swelling in the legs. However many times they can exist and not cause symptoms. This is known as Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) or phlebitis.

These blood clots have a tendency to break off pieces, which commonly travel to different locations in the body. This is called embolizaton. The most dangerous place for these clots to go is to the lungs. This is known as pulmonary embolizaton. The clots can cut off blood flow to areas of the lungs preventing the blood from obtaining sufficient levels of oxygen. This can result in serious illness and many times even death.

This whole process, that is, deep venous thrombosis and or pulmonary embolus, is referred to as
Venous Thromboembolism (VTE).


It is estimated that there are about 300,000 people diagnoses with VTE every year in the United States. 

The problem is that it is believed that the number of people that actually have this problem may be far more than 600,000.

It is though that pulmonary embolus causes between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths every year.

Below is a CT Scan of the pulmonary arteries.
The arrows point to large pulmonary emboli in the right and left pulmonary arteries.

Image source: Clotbuster Archives

Below is a nuclear scan showing a high probability of a pulmonary embolus. There is a mismatch between ventilation and perfusion.

Image source: Clotbuster Archives