Nursing Diagnosis Of Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism (or PE) is a blockage in one or more of the arteries of the lung. A PE can be fatal if it isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly. Patients with a risk for developing pulmonary embolism include those who have recently had surgery, trauma or major infection, or who are confined to bed for an extended period of time. It’s important to be able to recognize when a patient is experiencing symptoms related to pulmonary embolism so that you can provide appropriate treatment. This article will explain what nursing diagnosis are used when caring for patients at risk for developing pulmonary embolism, as well as how these diagnoses help guide your actions with patients who have this condition

Nursing Diagnosis Of Pulmonary Embolism

1. Nursing Diagnosis 1: Risk for Respiratory Distress Related to Pulmonary Embolism

Respiratory distress is an abnormal pattern of breathing. It can be caused by a pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage in one or more arteries of your lungs. Treatment for respiratory distress includes oxygen therapy and medication to open up the airways. Preventive measures include avoiding long periods of sitting or standing without moving, limiting alcohol use and taking calcium supplements when you’re at risk for developing this condition.

2. Nursing Diagnosis 2: Atelectasis Related to Pulmonary Embolism

Atelectasis is the collapse of a portion of the lung tissue. It can be caused by pulmonary embolism, which can be a serious problem if it is not treated. If left untreated, atelectasis leads to hypoxemia (a drop in blood oxygen levels), respiratory failure and death.

3. Nursing Diagnosis 3: Ineffective Airway Clearance Related to Pulmonary Embolism

Possible Causes for Ineffective Airway Clearance

  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Sleep apnea
  • Displacement of endotracheal tube or tracheostomy tube during sleep or by coughing and gagging with secretions
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Cervical spinal cord injury, upper motor neuron damage affecting respiratory control
  • Fluids in lungs (pulmonary edema, pleural effusion)

Assessing for Ineffective Airway Clearance:

  • Observation of chest wall movement during breathing and coughing 2 Do any sounds indicate airway obstruction? 3 Does the patient seem to be able to cough effectively? 4 Are there signs of respiratory distress such as retractions, cyanosis or tachypnea? 5 Has the patient been having difficulty breathing through his/her mouth lately? 6 Is there any pain with swallowing or talking? 7 Do you notice wheezing, stridor or snoring when he/she sleeps at night 8 How does your assessment compare to what was written down on your Nursing Diagnosis form for this patient last week? 9 What could cause these symptoms that don’t fit the profile of other patients who have had similar problems before them at your facility

4. Nursing Diagnosis 4: Decreased Cardiac Output Related to Pulmonary Embolism

  • Decreased cardiac output related to pulmonary embolism
  • Heart failure related to pulmonary embolism
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heart beats) related to pulmonary embolism
  • Cardiogenic shock related to pulmonary embolism

5. Taking care of a patient with pulmonary embolism can be difficult.

When caring for a patient with pulmonary embolism, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or talking
  • Bluish lips and/or fingers—this is called cyanosis.
  • Bluish nail beds in the fingers or toes that are not turning white (clubbing).


While it is important to identify and treat a pulmonary embolism, it is also important to recognize that this disease can be fatal. It’s up to you as a nurse to make sure that your patients receive the best care possible so they don’t have any complications with this condition. If you are unsure about what diagnosis codes might apply in certain situations, don’t hesitate to ask for help from an experienced professional like yourself!

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