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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Pulmonary Embolus: Treatment & Monitoring

Pulmonary Embolus

Alternate Names : Lung Embolus

Pulmonary Embolus | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

Oxygen and pain medications are given as needed. If the pulmonary embolus is caused by a DVT, bed rest and elevating the leg can help reduce the swelling and pain.

People with a deep venous thrombosis are usually given an injection of a blood-thinning medication. The injection may be given through an IV or under the skin. These medications, such as heparin and enoxaparin, help prevent further growth of the blood clot. After a few days of blood-thinning medications by injection, the person can be switched to pills. Warfarin is the most common blood-thinning pill.

In some people, blood-thinning medications cannot be used for various reasons. For example, a person may have a high risk of bleeding. In these cases, a surgical procedure can be done. This involves inserting a filter in one of the major veins of the body that leads to the heart. This filter catches any clots that break off. It keeps the clots away from the lungs.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Heparin can cause bleeding and lower blood platelet counts. Warfarin can also cause bleeding, which in rare cases is fatal. Warfarin interferes with many other medications. Surgery can cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

A person's condition after treatment will vary, depending on the cause of the pulmonary embolus. For example, a woman who recovers from a fluid embolus during pregnancy is free to return to normal activities. No further treatment may be needed.

If the cause of an embolus is a blood clot, a person usually needs to take blood thinners, such as warfarin. Treatment usually lasts for several months. A person who has had more than one pulmonary embolus may need to take blood thinners for life.

If blood thinners cannot be tolerated for some reason, a person may need to undergo a special procedure. This procedure inserts a filtering device in a major vein leading back to the heart. The filter stops an embolus from getting into the lungs.

How is the condition monitored?

Individuals on blood-thinning medications will have periodic blood tests to monitor the thickness of their blood. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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Pulmonary Embolus: Prevention & Expectations


Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
Date Reviewed: 08/06/01

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