When a clot travels into the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Small clots may be trivial, but larger clots can cause severe symptoms and even death. 


The most common symptoms are chest pain and difficulty breathing. Other, more subtle symptoms include:

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Racing heart
  • Cough


If clinically suspected, PE is diagnosed primarily with computed tomography (CT). Additional studies can be performed instead of CT - such as nuclear medicine ventilation-perfusion scan, and to complement the CT - such as ultrasound to look for other clots.


Anticoagulation (blood thinners) is the first line of therapy. Thrombolysis (dissolution) or thrombectomy (removal) is performed if the clot is extensive and symptomatic.

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