Medication for Pulmonary Embolism

NYU Langone doctors often prescribe medications to treat people with pulmonary embolism. This condition occurs after a blood clot breaks free, usually from the deep veins in the legs. It travels through the bloodstream and creates a blockage in the arteries of the lungs.

This is usually a medical emergency, with potentially serious or even life-threatening complications if not treated immediately. 

Depending on the size and severity of the clot, your doctor determines a treatment plan. Treatment usually begins with the use of anticoagulant and thrombolytic medications, which are also referred to as blood-thinning and clot-busting medications, respectively.

Anticoagulant Medication

Anticoagulant medications are a type of blood thinner. They are often given immediately to people suspected of having pulmonary embolism. These medications, which may include rivaroxaban, heparin, or warfarin, slow the formation of blood clots.

Many people with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism continue taking these blood thinners for three to six months after diagnosis.

Thrombolytic Medication

Some dangerous clots require fast acting thrombolytic medications, which are also called clot-busting medications. Most people receive these medications through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion, often during a medical emergency.

Because clot-busting medications can cause severe bleeding, they are usually only given to people with life-threatening symptoms who can be monitored closely.

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