Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms


A comprehensive overview of pulmonary embolism covering subjects as: treatment, symptoms, diagnostics, research, causes, pictures and images
Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Pulmonary embolism symptoms


     Pulmonary embolism is a total or partial blockage of the pulmonary artery or of one of its branches by a migrated local embolus through the bloodstream.

     It acts as a plug and reduces or interrupts the blood flow to the irrigated territory of the affected bowl. If the obstruction is complete, the lung tissue necrosis, generating a pulmonary infarct.

     This is one of the most frequent cases of sudden death (unexpected death that occurs in an apparent good health). The frequency is increased to the hospitalized patients and it also increases with the age.


Pulmonary embolism symptoms may include:


  • Dyspnea (sensation of lack of air) appeared suddenly
  • Sudden stabbing chest appeared becoming worse when you inhale deeply or you cough
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing with sputum sanguinolent (secretion with blood coming from the airways)
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations
  • Signs of shock.

     Pulmonary embolism can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be identical or similar to those of other diseases such as heart attack, panic attack or pneumonia. Also, some patients with pulmonary embolism do not have any symptoms. There are many other causes that can cause symptoms identical to those of pulmonary embolism.



     Approximately 60-70% of patients present the classic pulmonary embolism symptoms: chest pain of an effusion type, dyspnea often associated with sweating. Sometimes symptoms are minimal and the diagnosis is missed.

  • leg pain occurs in 25% of patients with pulmonary embolism
  • haemoptysis
  • palpitations (due to sinus tachycardia or due to atria fibrillation)
  • angina ("right heart angina" due to increased labor of the right heart + /- hypoxia)
  • syncope (through low transient cardiac debit)

     These heart diseases can be mistaken often with pulmonary embolism:

  • Myocardial infarction
  • Heart failure or pulmonary edema
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Pericarditis

     Other lung diseases which may be confused with pulmonary embolism:

  • Pneumonia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Pleurisy (collection of fluid between the two foil effusion)
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Pneumothorax (accumulation of air in the pleural cavity with partial or total lung colabation)

     And other illnesses may be confused with thromboembolism:

  • The dissecting aneurysm of the aorta
  • Hyperventilation (excessive ventilation)
  • Panic

     Pulmonary embolism can be suspected whenever syncope occurs (fainting) without an obvious cause.


Pathophysiological mechanisms


     If a massive thrombus blocks the pulmonary artery, blood flow can be completely stopped, causing sudden death. A smaller thrombus reduces the blood flow and can cause lung parenchyma. However if the thrombus is dissolved by itself, it could not produce major problems.

     Pulmonary embolism symptoms usually occur suddenly. Reducing the blood flow in one or both lungs can cause shortness of breath and tachycardia (increased heart rate). Decreased oxygen levels can also cause damage such as stabbing chest and lung parenchyma. Pulmonary embolism may regress without treatment.


Expect vigilance


     If pulmonary embolism is suspected you should announce your doctor or you should present to the hospital. Watchful waiting is not the right attitude in the case of pulmonary embolism.


Medical specialists recommended


     The physicians who can make a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism are:

  • Medical emergency
  • Physician
  • GP
  • Pneumologists
  • Your cardiologist
  • Surgeon: usually a general surgeon, orthopedist, vascular surgeon
  • Your gynecologist: if pulmonary embolism is related to pregnancy.