Pulmonary Embolism

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A pulmonary embolism (EM buh liz um) is a blood clot that travels to the blood vessels in the lungs.  Blood flow to the lungs can be totally blocked or partially blocked.  You may hear
a pulmonary embolism referred to as a “PE.”


Pulmonary embolisms are caused by blood clots that can develop from:

  • Staying in one position for a long time.
  • Certain illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes.
  • Hereditary factors.

Signs and symptoms

Your child may have one or more of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fast breathing
  • Bluish color of the fingers and lips
  • Coughing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Slight fever


Certain radiology tests can be done to tell if
your child has a pulmonary embolism.  The
tests are not painful.  Your child will be awake
during the tests.  These tests include

  • CT scan (Picture 1)
  • Ventilation/Perfusion or “VQ” scan

Risk factors

  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Using estrogen containing birth control pills
  • Diabetes
  • Congenital heart disease


A pulmonary embolism will be diagnosed by a physical examination, medical history and most often a CT scan.  Usually a pulmonary embolism will be treated with an anticoagulation medicine (blood thinner) such as:

  • Heparin
  • Lovenox
  • Warfarin

Precautions for children on anticoagulation therapy

  • Your child should not play contact sports while on blood-thinning medicine.
  • Your child will need to avoid aspirin products and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as:
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) -    Naproxen (Aleve)


  • Your child will see a Hematology doctor in the outpatient clinic soon after discharge
  • More laboratory and radiology tests may be needed.

When to call the doctor

Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish color of fingers or lips
  • Bleeding or coughing up blood

Call your child’s doctor at _________________ during regular clinic hours for:

  • Appointments
  • Medicine refills
  • Questions or concerns


Be sure to call your child’s doctor’s office at _________________________ if you cannot keep an appointment.


Pulmonary Embolism (PDF)

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