Lungs Home > Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism

To diagnose pulmonary embolism, doctors take a person's medical history, physical exam, and test results into account. Several test are used as part of the diagnostic process. Initial tests include an EKG, a chest x-ray, a duplex ultrasound, and blood work. Additional tests (such as pulmonary angiography) may be needed to confirm a pulmonary embolism.

An Introduction to Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism

Making a pulmonary embolism diagnosis typically requires a health history and a physical exam. These will help your doctor:
 
  • Identify your risk factors for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism
  • See how likely it is for you to have a pulmonary embolism
  • Eliminate other possible causes for your symptoms.
 

The Physical Exam

The physical exam will include:
 
  • Checking your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate
  • Listening to your lungs
  • Listening to your heart
  • Checking your legs for signs and symptoms of DVT.
 

Initial Tests Used to Make a Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis

Initial tests that will help your doctor to diagnose pulmonary embolism include:
 
  • EKG
  • Chest x-ray
  • Duplex ultrasound
  • Blood work.
 
EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram)
An EKG is used to measure the rate and regularity of your heartbeat.
 
Chest X-ray
A chest x-ray is used to take a picture of the lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and the diaphragm.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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