Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when a blood clot becomes lodged in the lungs, blocking normal blood flow and altering oxygen levels. At The Vein Specialists, our team of highly trained physicians can quickly diagnose and expertly treat PE to avoid serious complications.

About Pulmonary Embolism

PE typically stems from a blood clot that originates in a deep vein in the legs (a condition known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) and travels to the lungs. DVT is the leading cause of pulmonary embolism and also can lead to post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), a common complication associated with prolonged illness, heart or lung damage, and chronic symptoms. While PE is serious and can be life-threatening, immediate treatment greatly reduces the chance of death.

Risk Factors

Many risk factors can increase the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism, including:

  • Family history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism
  • Cancer, especially when treated with chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Injury, especially in the pelvic, hip, or leg region
  • Clotting disorders
  • Previous COVID-19 infection that included severe symptoms
  • Long periods of immobility or inactivity, including paralysis, bed rest, or long trips with extended car or plane rides
  • Smoking
  • Heart or lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Advanced age
  • Hormone therapy
  • Pregnancy or having given birth within six weeks


Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. If you develop sudden onset of swelling, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, or chest tightness or pain, it could be a sign of a pulmonary embolism. Call 911 immediately. Other symptoms include:

  • Passing out/fainting
  • Coughing up bloody mucous
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure or lightheadedness
  • Leg pain or swelling, especially in the lower extremities


Doctors typically diagnose PE based on a person's medical history, risk factors, and a physical examination. Doctors also may use chest X-ray to examine the heart and lungs, ultrasound to visualize the blood flowing inside the veins, and/or CT or MRI to visualize clots in the lungs and elsewhere in the body. Additionally, blood tests may be used to detect lowered blood oxygen levels, evidence of blood clots, and/or to determine whether a hereditary clotting disorder is present.


Treatment of PE depends on the severity of the condition and each patient's circumstances. Treatment options for PE include medication, procedures, and surgery. The primary goals of treatment are to prevent the clot from getting bigger, to prevent new clots from forming, and to prevent complications.

The experts at The Vein Specialists offer minimally invasive procedures that dissolve and/or remove blood clots, thereby relieving symptoms and minimizing the risk of post thrombotic syndrome:

Thrombectomy is a minimally invasive, single-session procedure where special catheters are used to remove blood clots in an artery or vein to restore blood flow in the vessel.

Thrombolytic Therapy
A powerful clot dissolving medication is injected through special catheters directly into the blood clot.

IVC Filter Placement and Removal
An IVC filter is a medical device used to prevent blood clots from traveling to the heart and lungs. It is inserted through a small tube into the body's largest vein, the inferior vena cava (IVC), which carries blood from the legs back up to the heart. The filter's purpose is to catch blood clots that may break off from the veins in the legs. Once the filter is no longer needed, it can be removed through a small tube similar to the one used for placement.

You have questions. We have answers.

Below you'll find answers to some of the questions we are commonly asked by patients. Please contact us at (828) 670-8346 with any additional questions or concerns.

What can I expect during a PE Procedure?
Before undergoing percutaneous thrombectomy or thrombolysis, your doctor will provide specific instructions on how to prepare for your treatment. Depending on your medical history and the extent of your PE, your doctor may recommend local or general anesthesia, or conscious sedation via an IV. During the procedure, a physician will make a small incision in your leg or arm to insert a wire and catheter. With the aid of imaging scans, the physician will guide the catheter and special devices through your blood vessels to the site of the blood clot, using advanced imaging technology to ensure accuracy and safety. After the procedure, some patients may be able to go home the same day, while others may need to stay in the hospital for observation, depending on the size and location of the clot. Your doctor will provide you with specific post-treatment instructions to ensure a successful recovery.
Is treatment covered by insurance?
Thrombectomy/thrombolysis and IVC Filters are typically covered by insurance in full as a treatment for PE. Your out-of-pocket expenses will depend on your particular insurance plan and whether deductibles have been met.
Can pulmonary embolism be prevented?
If you are at risk, use the following tips to help prevent pulmonary embolism:
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Regularly elevate your feet throughout the day.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothing.
  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Do not sit for long periods of time.
  • Attend regular checkups with your doctor.