Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Most cases of pulmonary embolism are initially evaluated in emergency departments or urgent care centers. If you think you might have a pulmonary embolism, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or emergency medical help.
What you can do
You may want to write a list that includes:
- Detailed descriptions of your symptoms
- Information about your past medical problems — especially any recent surgeries or illnesses that kept you bedridden for several days
- Details on any recent journeys that involved long car or plane rides, even if it was more than a week or two ago
- Medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs and alternative therapies
- Information about the medical problems of parents or siblings
- Questions you want to ask the doctor
For pulmonary embolism, some basic questions to ask include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- I had similar, milder symptoms a year ago that gradually disappeared. Could my current symptoms be related to that?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- Will I need surgery?
- How do I know my symptoms aren't due to coronary artery disease?
- What's the best treatment?
- I have other medical conditions. How best can I manage them together?
- Do I need to restrict my physical activity or travel plans?
- What can I do to help prevent future blood clots?
- What are the alternatives to the treatment approach you're suggesting?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor might inspect your legs for evidence of a deep vein clot — an area that's tender, red and warm. However, not finding evidence of a clot doesn't necessarily mean you don't have DVT. Your doctor will also listen to your heart and lungs, and will check your blood pressure.
Your doctor may ask you a number of questions to help diagnose your condition, such as:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have you been inactive lately, sitting or lying down for long periods?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- Do you feel like you have shortness of breath or sharp pain with breathing?
- Do you have any chest tenderness or other chest symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?
- Pulmonary embolism. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pe/pe_all.html. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Thompson BT, et al. Overview of acute pulmonary embolism. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Kline JA, et al. Pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Bauer KA, et al. Overview of the causes of venous thrombosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Deep vein thrombosis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00219. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Weitz JI. Pulmonary embolism. In: Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed Aug. 3, 2011.
- Rosenow EC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 21, 2011.
- Troncales FD, et al. Pulmonary embolism. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/linkTo?type=bookPage&isbn=978-0-323-05611-3&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05611-3..00025-2--sc0355. Accessed Aug. 16, 2011.
- General nuclear medicine. Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=gennuclear. Accessed Aug. 16, 2011.
- Catheter angiography. Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=Angiocath. Accessed Aug. 16, 2011.
- Lip GY, et al. Patient information: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 16, 2011.
- Deep vein thrombosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Dvt/DVT_All.html. Accessed Aug. 16, 2011.
- FDA expands use of Xarelto to treat, reduce recurrence of blood clots. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm326654.htm?source=govdelivery. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.