Pulmonary Embolism

Posted On January 2, 2016

For the past year, a new treatment for pulmonary embolism at Lexington Medical Center has been offering patients another option, with excellent results.

By Sarah McClanahan

Have you heard of pulmonary embolism (PE)? It’s a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. 

In most cases, PE is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or other parts of the body, which is known as deep vein thrombosis.

These clots contribute to 100,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lexington Medical Center now offers a new treatment option for patients suffering from PE — the EKOS EkoSonic® Endovascular System.

With this system, interventional cardiologists can deliver lower doses of thrombolytic, or clot-busting, medicines directly into the clots. Ultrasound pulses in the system are used to fragment the clot, helping the clot-busting drug to more effectively “melt” it away. 

“While systemic thrombolysis relies on blood flow, which is very limited in completely blocked vessels, to deliver a larger dose of thrombolytic drug to the intact surface of the clot, catheter-directed thrombolysis uses catheters placed directly through the clots to deliver smaller doses of thrombolytic drug right into the middle of the clots,” said Robert Leonardi, MD, FACC, FSCAI, at Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. 

Since 1990, the use of thrombolytic medications has been the standard of care for life-threatening PE; however, this treatment can have serious side effects, such as increased risk of bleeding. Using catheter-directed thrombolysis is a safer alternative.


“Catheter-directed thrombolysis helps patients recover from life-threatening PE more quickly and more completely by providing most or all of the benefit of full-dose, systemic thrombolysis with substantially less bleeding risk,” said Dr. Leonardi.

Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolism

Even though anyone can develop blood clots and pulmonary embolism, certain factors increase your risk.

  • Medical history
  • Heart disease
  • Certain cancers
  • Prolonged immobility, such as bed rest and sitting during travel
  • Surgery
  • Smoking 
  • Obesity
  • Supplemental estrogen, such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy