Tests & Procedures > Vascular Services > Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

The cardiologists and surgeons at PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute are expert at non-invasive and surgical treatment of pulmonary embolism. Surgical options include advanced minimally invasive procedures, including IVC Filter placement.

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to your lungs from another part of your body — most commonly, your legs. Pulmonary embolism is a complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is clotting in the veins farthest from the surface of the body.


Treatment Options for Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism can be treated with anticoagulants (blood thinners), such as Coumadin or heparin, or with clot-busting medications that are given intravenously. Other treatment options include:
  • Percutaneous Thrombectomy. The insertion of a catheter to the site of the embolism, using X-ray guidance. Once the catheter is in place, it is used to break up the embolism, extract it, or dissolve it by injecting thrombolytic medication.
  • Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement. This small metal device is placed in the vena cava (the large blood vessel that returns blood from the body to the heart) using image-guidance and a catheter inserted through the skin to the treatment site. Contrast material may be injected into the inferior vena cava to help guide the catheter and verify precise placement of the IVC filter in the blood vessel. These filters prevent clots from traveling to the lung and are generally used in patients who cannot receive anticoagulation treatment (for medical reasons), or who develop additional clots even with anticoagulation treatment.
  • Pulmonary Embolectomy. This is the surgical removal of a pulmonary embolism. This procedure is generally performed only in severe situations in which the PE is very large and the patient's condition is unstable. The artery will be opened, and a special catheter with a small inflatable balloon at the tip is slid down the artery. The clot is sucked through the catheter while the balloon is inflated to displace the clot as it is extracted. The artery is stitched, making sure that blood is flowing properly before the skin is closed.
Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on your age, overall health and medical history, as well as:
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your signs and symptoms
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease