How Serious is Pulmonary Embolism & What is its Survival Rate?

Pulmonary embolism is a type of common cardiovascular disease in which the patient experiences a sudden blockage in a lung artery which supplies blood to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism is mainly caused due to a blood clot that travels up from one of the veins in legs. Due to this blockage, the oxygen is prevented from reaching the tissue from the lungs and it can be life threatening to the patient.

How Serious is Pulmonary Embolism & What is its Survival Rate?

How Serious is Pulmonary Embolism and What Increases its Chances?

Pulmonary embolism is a very serious disease and it can cause serious complication in the human body. For example, it may cause a sudden collapse. Because of the blood clot, the function of the heart can stop suddenly which can cause the sudden cardiac arrest or death.

The chances of getting pulmonary embolism increase for those who have been inactive for a longer period of time due to various reasons such as a serious limb injury, any kind of serious operation, etc. Due to prolonged bed rest, the clotting potential of blood can be increased which may cause pulmonary embolism. The prolonged bed rest can also cause damage to the blood vessel and when the patient stretches their legs for movement there can be trauma on their legs which may lead to pulmonary embolism. Apart from that pulmonary embolism can also be caused due to the following reasons as well:

  • Overweight also increase the chances of pulmonary embolism. Particularly, women who are overweight, who smoke and have high blood pressure is very prone to pulmonary embolism.
  • At the time of pregnancy, the pelvis generally slows down the blood return from the legs of a pregnant woman due to the weight of the baby. During this time, there is a huge chance of getting a blood clot as the flow of blood slows down. This can increase the chance of pulmonary embolism.
  • When women take birth control pills for a long period of time, the chances of getting pulmonary embolism increases because the birth control pills contains estrogen that increases the chances of blood clotting. Apart from that, the hormone replacement therapy can also increase the factor in blood especially when the woman is overweight and smokes a lot.
  • Along with prolonged bed rest, pulmonary embolism may also occur when a person sits in a cramped position while traveling on a long trip by flight or car. This happens because while a person remains in a cramped position for a long period of time blood flow slows down which can result in clots resulting in pulmonary embolism.
  • Age is also a great factor. The older you get the more is the chances of developing a clot in blood. Clotting of blood may also occur due to an inherited clotting disorder.

What is the Survival Rate in Pulmonary Embolism?

It is possible to survive from pulmonary embolism if an early detection of the disease is made and timely treatment is started. Unfortunately, it is difficult to detect pulmonary embolism at an early stage. However, the following symptoms may indicate the presence of the disease:

Whenever a person suffers from the above symptoms they should immediately check with their doctors and diagnose it properly. If pulmonary embolism is not detected at the early stage and its treatment is not started early then the survival rate becomes very less. Whenever a patient suffers from the above-mentioned symptoms, doctors perform a number of tests to confirm whether a patient has pulmonary embolism or not. Such tests include CT scan, blood tests, ultrasound scan, echocardiogram, EKG heart tracing, V/Q scan, pulmonary angiogram, etc.

Moreover, simply determining the presence of pulmonary embolism is not enough, it is very essential to determine the seriousness of pulmonary embolism and start the treatment procedure accordingly. There are several treatment procedures available like thrombolytic treatment, cardiovascular resuscitation, syncope, etc. In many other cases, the patients have to go for clot-busting medications, open heart surgery, catheter-based treatment, Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, (ECMO) etc. If it is found that the condition is not so severe, the patient may not have to go through the surgeries. The doctor advises oral medication for thinning the blood. Apart from that, doctors may also ask the patient to use heparin or Warfarin for thinning the blood.

Thus, the survival rate of a pulmonary embolism increases with early detection and proper treatment which is actually based on the stable size of clotting.


Certain physical disorders exacerbate the chance of blood clot in the body, thereby increasing the risk of pulmonary embolism. As various modern treatment procedures are now available, the mortality rate from this disease has been dissipating steadily. However, early detection can prevent the risk of further complications or death to a great extent.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 22, 2018

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