Is pulmonary embolism (PE) a disease or a complication of DVT?

Updated: Jun 06, 2019
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Answer

The most important conceptual advance regarding pulmonary embolism over the last several decades has been the realization that pulmonary embolism is not a disease; rather, pulmonary embolism is a complication of venous thromboembolism, most commonly deep venous thrombosis (DVT; shown in the image below). Virtually every physician who is involved in patient care encounters patients who are at risk for venous thromboembolism, and therefore at risk for pulmonary embolism. (See Etiology of Pulmonary Embolism.)

Computed tomography venograms in a 65-year-old man Computed tomography venograms in a 65-year-old man with possible pulmonary embolism. This image shows acute deep venous thrombosis with intraluminal filling defects in the bilateral superficial femoral veins.

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