What is the typical presentation of pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2019
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Answer

The presentation of pulmonary embolism may vary from sudden catastrophic hemodynamic collapse to gradually progressive dyspnea. (Prior poor cardiopulmonary status of the patient is an important factor leading to hemodynamic collapse.) Most patients with pulmonary embolism have no obvious symptoms at presentation. In contrast, patients with symptomatic DVT commonly have pulmonary embolism confirmed on diagnostic studies in the absence of pulmonary symptoms. Sickle cell disease often creates a diagnostic difficulty with regard to pulmonary embolism. A chest infection is often the presenting symptom.


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