Nigerian Journal of Medicine

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Acute pulmonary embolism: A review

JA Saleh, DD Alasia


Background: Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common clinical disorder which is associated with high morbidity and mortality if untreated. Due to the high morbidity and mortality associated with undiagnosed and poorly treated PE, there is a need for protocols based on risk factor assessment to facilitate early diagnosis of PE and protocols to ensure early and adequate treatment. The aim of this review is to highlight the risk factors associated with PE and discuss the modalities for optimal management of PE. Method: Literature was reviewed using available medical journals, Science direct, Medline and Embase databases. Key words employed were: pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), venous thromboembolism (VTE) and thrombophilia. Information was also sourced from the British Thoracic Society and The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute websites. Results: Studies have shown that hypercoagulability state, stasis and local trauma to the vessel wall predisposes to PE. These studies further underscored that heparin is the cornerstone of therapy hence optimal diagnostic approach should be observed to avoid unnecessary anticoagulant therapy considering the fact that it carries a risk for bleeding. Conclusion: This review was able to highlight the risk factors and management of pulmonary embolism. Patients with one or more predisposing factors and having high index of suspicion based on clinical assessment should be managed according to an agreed hospital protocol.

Nigerian Journal of Medicine Vol. 16 (1) 2007: pp. 11-17
AJOL African Journals Online