A pulmonary embolism (PE) is the sudden blockage of blood vessels in the lungs, usually
caused by a blood clot that has developed from a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Although, an
embolism can be formed by many other things, a blood clot is the most common, and therefore
the focus of the cause of a pulmonary embolism in this paper. The difference between an
embolism and thrombus are discussed, followed by an explanation of how the blood clot from
the DVT becomes a PE. Pulmonary embolism manifests many signs and symptoms that overlap
with other disease, therefore, it is also important to perform lab tests and diagnostic imaging
techniques in the accurate diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Next, some actual nursing
diagnoses are formulated regarding the data collected in the assessment of pulmonary embolism.
Anticoagulants and thrombolytics are the classes of medications used in the treatment of PE,
although education is the most important aspect in the prevention of this sudden often fatal
Keywords: Pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, nursing diagnosis for PE, signs and symptoms of PE, treatment of PE
Pulmonary embolism, also known as a PE, is the sudden occlusion of a major blood
vessel that prevents blood flow to the lungs. PE may result from the blockage of an artery in the
lungs by “air bubble, amniotic fluid, aggregate of fat, bacteria, cancer cells, or foreign
substances”(Huether & McCance, 2008). However, the most common cause of pulmonary
embolism usually develops in the form of a blood clot or thrombus, which has formed in the
venous system of the lower extremities (Perry, 2008). Therefore, this discussion will focus on
pulmonary embolisms that arise from deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
First it is important to understand the difference between a thrombus and an embolism.
According to Huether and McCance (2008) a thrombus is a blood clot that remains attached to