Pulmonary Embolism

  1. Definition of "pulmonary embolism."


  1. It is a blood clot lodged in the artery of a lung.

  2. The blood clot obstructs blood flow to a portion of the lung.

  3. Without adequate blood supply, the lung cannot function properly, and lung tissue may be destroyed.


  1. Factors that may cause pulmonary embolism.


  1. Immobility.

  2. Fractures and injury.

  3. Advanced age.

  4. Obesity.

  5. Pregnancy.

  6. Recent surgery.

  7. Vascular disease.

  8. Estrogen therapy.

  9. Certain disease, e.g., diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease.


  1. Signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism.


  1. Medium size emboli:

  1. Chest pain.

  2. Shortness of breath.

  3. Cough with blood-tinged sputum.

  4. Rapid heart rate.

  5. Slight fever.

  6. Perspiration.

  7. Apprehension.

  1. Pallor.

  2. Severe shortness of breath.

  3. Crushing chest pain.

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


  1. Measures to prevent pulmonary embolism.


    1. Promote good circulation:

  1. Exercise regularly, especially leg exercises.

  2. Elevate legs 30 degrees or more sitting.

  3. Wear anti-embolism stockings.

  4. Avoid crossing legs or sitting for long periods of time.

  5. Avoid constrictive clothing.

  6. Stop smoking (constricts blood vessels).

  1. Increase fluid intake to at least 6-8 glasses per day.

  2. Take medication as prescribed. (Provide Coumadin handout as appropriate.)

  3. Follow general safety precautions to prevent injury (good lighting, handrails, etc.).

  4. Avoid laxatives because they affect vitamin K absorption.


  1. Possible complications of pulmonary embolism.


    1. Pulmonary infarction ( death of lung tissue).

    2. Pulmonary hypertension.

    3. Heart failure.

    4. Collapse of a lung.