Acute & Chronic Pulmonary Embolism | Tampa General Hospital


A pulmonary embolism occurs when there is a blockage in a pulmonary artery, a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs. Blockages of this kind are a serious condition and, if not treated promptly, may cause permanent damage to the lungs or death. 

Pulmonary Embolism Causes  

In the majority of cases, a pulmonary embolism occurs in conjunction with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is the formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the leg. When a clot breaks free in the leg and travels to the lungs, a pulmonary embolism can occur.  

Some of the risk factors that can contribute to the development of DVT include: 

  • Prolonged periods of inactivity 
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • An inherited blood-clotting disorder 
  • Injury to the veins 
  • Cancer 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Advanced age 

A pulmonary embolism may also be caused by: 

  • Air bubbles 
  • Parts of a tumor  
  • Fat from the marrow of a broken bone  
  • Heart failure 
  • Stroke 

Women who are pregnant, have given birth in the last six weeks or are taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy are also at increased risk. 

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms 

The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism vary from person to person, based on the size of the clot, how much of the lung is affected and your overall health. The most common symptoms are: 

  • Sudden shortness of breath 
  • Sharp chest pain  
  • Coughing up bloody mucus  
  • Leg or back pain 
  • Pale, clammy skin 
  • Rapid pulse 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Wheezing 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 

Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis 

Because the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism mimic those of other conditions, such as heart attack or panic attack, it can be hard to diagnose. At Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute, our physicians have extensive experience treating patients with pulmonary embolisms and offer a number of diagnostic options to get to the bottom of your symptoms, including:  

  • Blood tests 
  • Chest X-rays  
  • Pulmonary angiograms 
  • Ultrasounds 
  • CT scans 
  • MRI scans

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment 

A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition, and treatment often takes place in a hospital setting so that you can be closely monitored. While some patients may achieve desired results through blood thinner medications, thrombolytic therapy and compression stockings, others may require a surgical procedure to prevent medical complications. 

The Heart & Vascular Institute offers prompt pulmonary embolism treatment for patients, and our physicians utilize leading-edge technologies and surgical procedures, such as: 

  • Thrombolysis, which involves guiding a catheter through the circulatory system to deliver clot-dissolving drugs 
  • Vena cava filter implantation, which is an umbrella-shaped device implanted in the deep veins of the lower extremities to prevent clots from traveling to the lungs