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Chest pain doesn’t always mean you’re having a heart attack. But it can still be something serious — like a blood clot in your lung.

This clot, a pulmonary embolism (PE), has early warning signs that tend to be nonspecific symptoms, including chest pain, racing heart beat and shortness of breath — similar to those we usually associate with a heart attack. PE can be just as life-threatening, demanding the same kind of quick care.

We have a dedicated team of expert healthcare providers ready to quickly diagnose and treat pulmonary embolisms. We also help you manage what’s causing your PE to help you avoid future blood clots and complications.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Pulmonary Embolism Care?

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Comprehensive treatment:

Whether you need emergency treatment or ongoing care, we’re here for you. Our providers quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of PE to start treatment right away and will work with you to help prevent future clots and problems with PE management.

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Skilled collaborative providers:

Your team of providers at Cleveland Clinic may come from more than a half dozen different specialties, but they’ll work as one unit to focus on one person —you. Each member of these expert teams communicates with others in their field and with team members from different areas. Meet our team.

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Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic’s respiratory providers constantly study new ways to diagnose and treat many different lung conditions, including pulmonary embolism. Talk with your care team to see if you qualify for any of our clinical trials.

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Virtual visits:

When you don’t have time for an in-person appointment at your provider’s office, we’ve got you covered. Our virtual visits are perfect for follow-ups and quick check-ins with your provider. You’ll get the same great care online as you would at the office, no matter where you are.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism at Cleveland Clinic

You can get a pulmonary embolism when a blood clot moves through your veins and into your pulmonary arteries. These clots usually come from your arm or leg. And they can cause problems with blood flow and oxygen levels in your lungs.

They usually start with blood “pooling” in a part of your body from inactivity after surgery or bed rest. Injuries can also cause clots, as can many different heart conditions or blood clotting disorders.

A pulmonary embolism is treatable if caught early. So, it’s important to react quickly to the warning signs — chest pain, rapid heartbeat, coughing up bloody mucus and shortness of breath.

Left untreated, a PE can damage your lungs and cause heart failure — or even death. It’s important to find healthcare providers who know what it takes to correctly diagnose pulmonary embolism and start the best treatment for your needs.

What to expect during diagnosis

We know that finding out you may have a pulmonary embolism can be stressful. We’ll likely be moving fast to pinpoint what’s going on and start treatment quickly — often in less than 30 minutes.

But that doesn’t mean we’re moving so fast that we leave you out of the equation. You stay at the center of your care whether you’re in the ER or talking with us about follow-up care and the next steps.

Our expert providers are here to guide you through every step. They’ll ask a lot of questions to find out what kind of symptoms you have and how long you’ve had them. They’ll also want to know about any other health conditions you have and if anyone if your family has had blood clots.

You’ll have a physical exam and get orders for tests.

Testing for pulmonary embolism

We use a mix of tests to find out if you have a pulmonary embolism, like:

Meet Our Pulmonary Embolism Team

Cleveland Clinic’s focus on team-based care means you get a care team of providers from different specialties handpicked for your needs, like:

This team works together to confirm a diagnosis, quickly start emergency treatment and then create a care plan focused on helping you manage risk factors that could cause future pulmonary embolisms.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Treating Pulmonary Embolism at Cleveland Clinic

Usually, we’ll have you stay in the hospital for PE treatment. This lets your care team keep a close eye on you. How long you’ll stay, and the kind of treatment you’ll have, will depend on how large and severe the blood clot is. Your team may recommend:


Anticoagulant medications are the most common treatment for PE. These drugs (also known as blood thinners) lower your blood’s ability to clot and can prevent future ones. Your care team will decide what medication will work best for you — and how long you’ll need to take it.

Compression stockings

You may know them as support hose — but compression stockings do more than help tired legs. We may recommend you wear them to improve blood flow and keep blood from pooling in your legs.

Catheters or surgery

Life-threatening pulmonary embolisms may need an embolectomy to remove the clot. You may also need one if you haven’t responded to other treatment.

To keep blood clots from entering your lungs again, your care team may decide to place a vena cava filter inside your body’s largest vein. This filter traps clots before they reach your lungs.

Thrombolytic therapy

You may also need clot-busting drugs (thrombolytic medications). Particularly if you’re in the intensive care unit (ICU) or have low blood pressure or other PE-related complications.

Life After a Pulmonary Embolism

It can take months, or even years, for a PE to go away completely. And, sometimes, it can happen again. And again. That means you’ll need ongoing care to help that. You’ll have regular appointments with your care team so they can check on your progress. They’ll have you do frequent lab tests so they can see how you’re responding to any medications.

You’ll want to do things to keep blood clots from re-forming. Regular exercise is good. So is moving around a few minutes every hour. Elevating your legs for 30 minutes twice a day can also help. As can drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco products.

Taking the Next Step

While a pulmonary embolism can be serious, it’s also treatable. Not just immediately (which is crucial for recovery) but also after you recover. Emergency care can save your life. Managing your risks can help keep more blood clots at bay. Our providers are here to help make this happen. They’ll build a personalized treatment plan that focuses on you. And they’ll answer your questions, listen to your concerns and help you move forward through treatment and follow-up care.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s pulmonary embolism experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s pulmonary embolism experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

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