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Pulmonary Embolism (PE): Overview

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a potentially fatal blockage of an artery in the lungs. The nature of the blockage is typically a blood clot, fat agglomeration, bubble of gas, or a piece of foreign material, known as an embolus.

When an artery is blocked, blood ceases to be able to pass by the occlusion. This prevents oxygen from reaching the tissue, and can cause serious damage to the affected area. PE can also cause low oxygen levels in the blood and, therefore, damage to other organs in the body, as they suffer from a lack of oxygen.

If a patient has a particularly large embolus, or several emboli, they may be at risk of death. As PE can be extremely serious, causing mortality within hours of an incident, it is important to recognize some of the symptoms. Shortness of breath, breathing problems, chest pain, coughing, and arrhythmia are frequently associated with PE.

Risk factors for PE include:

Prevention of movement, such as being bedridden, or paralysis