Pulmonary Edema

  1. Definition of "pulmonary edema."



  1. Possible causes of pulmonary edema.


  1. Heart failure (most common).

  2. Kidney failure.

  3. Intravenous fluid overload.

  4. Intravenous drug overdose.

  5. Drowning.


  1. Signs and symptoms of pulmonary edema (typically begin after lying down a few hours).


  1. Initial stage:

  1. Persistent cough.

  2. Slight shortness of breath.

  3. Restlessness.

  4. Anxiety.

    1. Advanced stage:

  1. Extreme shortness of breath.

  2. Noisy, moist respirations.

  3. Cough with frothy, pink-tinged sputum.

  4. Profuse perspiration.

  5. Rapid heart rate.

  6. Gray complexion.

  7. Extreme anxiety.

  1. Acute stage:

  1. Decreased level of consciousness.

  2. Shock (blood pressure drops, and client may lose consciousness).


  1. Measures to prevent a recurrence of pulmonary edema.


  1. Follow activity as ordered, with planned rest periods.

  2. Restrict sodium. (Provide "Restrict Sodium" handout.)

  3. Weigh daily for early detection of fluid retention.

  4. Sleep with head of bed elevated (place head of bed on 10-inch blocks).

  5. Avoid people with upper respiratory infections.

  6. Notify doctor if the following symptoms occur:

  1. Change in sputum characteristics.

  2. Decreased activity tolerance.

  3. Increased cough or chest fullness.

  4. Noisy, moist breathing.

  5. Swelling of lower extremities.

  6. What to do if pulmonary edema occurs.


  1. Call an ambulance and notify physician. (Have emergency number next to the phone.)

  2. Sit with head and shoulders up and feet down to favor pooling of the blood to the lower dependent portions of the body.

  3. Do not panic. (Family members should provide emotional support to decrease anxiety.)


  1. Possible complications of pulmonary edema.


  1. Respiratory failure.

  2. Cardiac arrest.