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Disease Information : Pulmonary Embolism : Treatment

Pulmonary Embolism : Treatment

How is Pulmonary Embolism Treated?

The foundation of treatment is thinning the blood with anticoagulants such as immediately-acting heparin, low molecular weight heparin, fondaparinux, or direct thrombin inhibitors (argatroban, lepirudin, or bivalirudin) and the slow-onset oral blood thinner, warfarin. An immediately acting intravenous or injected blood thinner must be administered right away. The oral blood thinner, warfarin, takes about 5 days to become effective to prevent the development of a recurrent PE. In addition to blood thinners, more aggressive therapy includes “clot buster” drugs such as TPA or catheter-based or surgical embolectomy to remove the PE. 

The duration of treatment with the oral blood thinner will vary from a 6 month minimum to lifelong, depending upon the circumstances of the PE and other individual risk factors. 


Prevention of PE is a lot easier than diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, when hospitalized, it is important to ask your health care providers what measures are being taken to prevent PE. These can include mechanical preventive efforts such as use of graduated compression stockings or prescription of low doses of blood thinners such as unfractionated heparin, low molecular weight heparin, or fondaparinux.

Pulmonary Embolism section was last modified: December 21, 2010 - 05:55 pm

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