Pulmonary Embolism Treatment | MedStar Health

Medications and procedures to treat a blood clot in the lungs

Several types of venous disease can cause blood clots to form. These clots can break loose and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), a potentially dangerous condition that requires immediate medical care.

Our doctors are experts in treating this condition.


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In many cases, a pulmonary embolism can be treated with medication to help dissolve clots and prevent new ones from forming.

  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants): These drugs reduce the blood’s ability to clot. Some common anticoagulants include heparin, warfarin, and fondaparinux.

  • Thrombolysis: This drug therapy is used to dissolve a blood clot by injecting blood thinning medications directly into it. This treatment may be combined with a procedure to physically remove the clot with a catheter.

Surgery and minimally invasive procedures

If medication is not effective to dissolve or prevent clots, or the pulmonary embolism is life-threatening, your doctor may recommend:

  • Clot removal: If the clot is large, you may need a procedure to remove it. This may be done through a thin, flexible tube known as a catheter that is inserted through a small incision and guided through your blood vessels to the blood clot

  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters: If you are at risk for blood clots, your doctor can place a small, wiry device in the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower body back to the heart. This filter allows blood to flow past it while trapping clots before they reach the heart and lungs

  • Surgery: This may be required to remove clots as a lifesaving procedure


A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the lungs’ arteries. It’s usually caused by a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the legs or arms that travels to the lungs.


Arterial Duplex Ultrasound for Arms and Legs

Arterial duplex ultrasound uses doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries of your arms and legs.

Chest X-Ray

Chest x-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses x-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology used to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Our locations

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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar St Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Harbor Hospital

3001 S. Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.