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.
Over 95% of blood
clots that cause pulmonary embolism are formed in the
deep leg veins.1 Clots also can form in the deep
veins of the arms or pelvis.
Occasionally blood clots develop in
surface veins, but these clots rarely lead to
In rare cases, pulmonary embolism may be
caused by other substances, including:2
- Small masses of infectious
- Fat, which can be released into the bloodstream after
some types of bone fractures, surgery, trauma, or severe burns.
bubbles from trauma, surgery, or medical procedures.
- Amniotic fluid
from normal or complicated pregnancy and childbirth (very rare).
Tumors caused by rapidly growing cancer cells.
substances-such as a catheter that can break off during a medical procedure,
talc, mercury, iodine, cotton, or the growth of tapeworm larvae.
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