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Pulmonary Embolism: Blood Clot in Lungs

A pulmonary embolism, or a PE, is simply just a blood clot that occurs in the lungs. Now,

a great majority of people that suffer blood clots will present with shortness of breath,

maybe some racing heart, maybe a little bit of chest pain. They come into the hospital.

They're evaluated, and usually put on blood thinners, and are able to be discharged in

a timely manner. A small group of patients, though, will go on to develop heart strain

as a result of that. And that heart strain can come in different flavors. At the more

severe side, we talk about people having massive PEs, or PEs that cause hemodynamic instability.

It's a nice way of saying that your heart suffers the consequences of that blood clot,

and as a result of it, can't do its job, which is provide blood pressure to the rest

of your body. And so, patients that present with massive PEs, present with very low blood

pressures. And so, for us, it's a medical emergency. We have designed this multi-disciplinary

group where many doctors can come to the table with expertise in their field, to help come

up with a treatment plan that works for a patient in the short term, when they come

into the hospital, and then also into the long term, when they're dealing with the

consequences of this disease over the next days, the weeks, the months, the years. Here

at the University of Virginia, we have surgical interventions that can be offered, where the

clots are taken out by a cardiothoracic surgeon. We have an ECMO system, which is, essentially,

a life-sustaining system for the heart and lungs while the body treats itself. We have

interventional radiologists that can offer clot-busting medicine, directly at the site

of the clot. And we have the facilities of our intensive care units that are able to

take care of the patients as they're going through this very important and very serious

time in their life.