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Who Is at Risk for Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs equally in men and women. The risk increases with age. For every 10 years after age 60, the risk of having PE doubles.

Certain inherited conditions, such as factor V Leiden, increase the risk of blood clotting and PE.

Major Risk Factors

Your risk for PE is high if you have deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a history of DVT. In DVT, blood clots form in the deep veins of the body—most often in the legs. These clots can break free, travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, and block an artery.

Your risk for PE also is high if you've had the condition before.

Other Risk Factors

Other factors also can increase the risk for PE, such as:

  • Being bedridden or unable to move around much
  • Having surgery or breaking a bone (the risk goes up in the weeks following the surgery or injury)
  • Having certain diseases or conditions, such as a stroke, paralysis (an inability to move), chronic heart disease, or high blood pressure
  • Smoking

People who have recently been treated for cancer or who have a central venous catheter are more likely to develop DVT, which increases their risk for PE. A central venous catheter is a tube placed in a vein to allow easy access to the bloodstream for medical treatment.

Other risk factors for DVT include sitting for long periods (such as during long car or airplane rides), pregnancy and the 6-week period after pregnancy, and being overweight or obese. Women who take hormone therapy pills or birth control pills also are at increased risk for DVT.

The risk of developing blood clots increases as your number of risk factors increases.

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Pulmonary Embolism Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Pulmonary Embolism, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


Pulmonary Embolism in the News

View all Pulmonary Embolism Press Releases

 
July 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.