Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lungs, often caused by deep vein thrombosis. It is a life-threatening condition as clots decrease oxygen levels in the blood, which may lead to organ damage or failure. Clots may occur as a result of injury, inactivity, certain medical treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy, or existing medical conditions.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, fainting, chest pain, coughing, fever, clammy skin, lightheadedness, a weak pulse, and anxiety. Risk factors for pulmonary embolism include a history of cancer, family history of embolisms, a fractured leg or hip, a history of heart attacks or strokes, obesity, being over 60, a sedentary lifestyle, and taking certain hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone.
The risk of pulmonary embolism may be mitigated by taking blood thinning medication, wearing compression stockings after surgery or on long flights, elevating the legs, and remaining physically active. Treatment options for pulmonary embolism include surgery and medication. Drug classes commonly prescribed to treat pulmonary embolism are factor Xa inhibitors, fractionated heparins (LMWHs), and vitamin K antagonists.