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What causes pulmonary embolism?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Pulmonary embolism, or a blockage of the lung's arteries, is caused by a blood clot (embolus) that travels to the lung. The clot usually originates from deep veins located in the legs or the pelvis. This is called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), and can occur when the legs remain in one position for an extended period of time. These two conditions usually occur together, as all blood clots must eventually flow to the lungs following normal blood flow. Less common material that can block the lung's arteries include: fat from bone marrow (released from surgery or a bone fracture), unnatural substances from injected drugs, air bubbles (caused by surgery or injury to large veins), tumors or amniotic fluid that is forced into the bloodstream during pregnancy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.