What is the pathophysiology of pulmonary embolism (PE) in deep venous thrombosis (DVT)?

Updated: Jul 05, 2017
  • Author: Kaushal (Kevin) Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Answer

PE develops as venous thrombi break off from their location of origin and travel through the right heart and into the pulmonary artery, causing a ventilation perfusion defect and cardiac strain. PE occurs in approximately 10% of patients with acute DVT and can cause up to 10% of in hospital deaths. [53, 54] However, most patients (up to 75%) are asymptomatic. Traditionally, proximal venous thrombosis are thought to be at highest risk for causing pulmonary emboli; however, the single largest autopsy series ever performed to specifically to look for the source of fatal PE was performed by Havig in 1977, who found that one third of the fatal emboli arose directly from the calf veins. [55]


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