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Pulmonary Embolism - Cause

Pulmonary embolism is caused by a blocked artery in the lungs. The most common cause of such a blockage is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in the leg and travels to the lungs, where it becomes lodged in a smaller lung artery.

Almost all blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism are formed in the deep leg veins. Clots also can form in the deep veins of the arms or pelvis.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Pulmonary Vascular Disease

Pulmonary vascular disease is the medical term for disease affecting the blood vessels leading to or from the lungs. Most forms of pulmonary vascular disease cause shortness of breath.

Read the Pulmonary Vascular Disease article > >

Sometimes blood clots develop in surface veins. But these clots rarely lead to pulmonary embolism.

In rare cases, pulmonary embolism may be caused by other substances, including:

  • Small masses of infectious material.
  • Fat, which can be released into the bloodstream after some types of bone fractures, surgery, trauma, or severe burns.
  • Air bubbles or substances that get into the blood from trauma, surgery, or medical procedures.
  • Tumors caused by rapidly growing cancer cells.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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