Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Prompt treatment of pulmonary embolism is essential to prevent serious complications or death.

Medications

  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants). These drugs prevent new clots from forming, but it may take a few days before these medicines begin to work. Risks include bleeding gums and easy bruising.
  • Clot dissolvers (thrombolytics). While clots usually dissolve on their own, there are medications that can dissolve clots quickly. Because these clot-busting drugs can cause sudden and severe bleeding, they usually are reserved for life-threatening situations.

Surgical and other procedures

  • Clot removal. If you have a very large clot in your lung, your doctor may suggest removing it via a thin, flexible tube (catheter) threaded through your blood vessels.
  • Vein filter. A catheter can also be used to position a filter in the main vein — called the inferior vena cava — that leads from your legs to the right side of your heart. This filter can block clots from being carried into your lungs. This procedure is typically reserved for people who can't take anticoagulant drugs or when anticoagulant drugs don't work well enough or fast enough. The catheter with a filter in the tip is usually inserted in a vein in your neck.
Jan. 02, 2014

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