What's the treatment for pulmonary embolism?Treatment of pulmonary embolism focuses on preventing future pulmonary embolism by using anticoagulant medications. Anticoagulants prevent existing blood clots from growing larger and help prevent new ones from developing.
Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can cause sudden death. The patient is hospitalized immediately and given drugs, such as heparin and warfarin, to dissolve clots and prevent new ones from forming. Oxygen is given to bring the levels of oxygen in the blood to normal levels. Some patients can’t take drugs that prevent clots. These patients may need surgery to insert a device that filters blood returning to the heart and lungs until the pulmonary embolism dissolves. In very severe cases, doctors may need to perform surgery to remove the embolism.
Thrombolytic therapy is another approach for severe pulmonary embolism. Streptokinase, urokinase, and tissue plasminogen activator are thrombolytic drugs that are used to break up the clots. Thromobolytics can’t be given to people who are pregnant, have had a recent stroke, have a bleeding disorder, or had surgery within the last 10 days before the pulmonary embolism occurred. Most people who have had successful treatment for pulmonary embolism need to continue taking blood thinning medication after leaving the hospital.
Some people may also benefit from having a vena cava filter inserted into the large central vein of the body. This filter can help prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs. It is used when anticoagulants are not an option, clots form despite anticoagulant use, or there is an increased risk of death or a severely restricted lifestyle if another pulmonary embolism occurs.