Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors

Having a pulmonary embolism (PE) can be scary, and it's normal to want to understand how it could have happened, especially if you feel like you’re generally healthy. The truth is, almost anyone can be affected by a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can lead to a pulmonary embolism. Your chance of experiencing a PE increases if you have certain risk factors—especially if you have more than one. The following risk factors are the same as those for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), because a PE is caused by a DVT blood clot that has broken free and traveled to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism risk factors you can influence or that are temporary:

  • Flying on a plane for long periods
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
  • Injury to a deep vein due to surgery or other trauma
  • Slow blood flow due to immobility after surgery or during illness
  • Certain cancer treatments

Pulmonary embolism risk factors you can’t control or change:

  • A family history of DVT
  • Certain blood disorders that make your blood more likely to clot (eg, factor V Leiden, a mutation of one of the clotting factors involved in normal blood clotting)
  • Older age

If you’ve had a PE, some of the above factors can also put you at ongoing risk for multiple pulmonary embolisms. Learn more about managing recurrent pulmonary embolism with a blood thinner like XARELTO®.