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Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism

Lynn M. Cloutier
CJON 2007, 11(3), 343-348 DOI: 10.1188/07.CJON.343-348

Case 1: A 77-year-old Caucasian woman with a probable diagnosis of ovarian cancer developed an acute onset of shortness of breath two days after being discharged for a workup of symptomatic ascites. Her medical history was significant for hypertension and atrial fibrillation, and she was taking therapeutic doses of coumadin. She presented to the emergency department; was found to have a large, left pleural effusion; and was admitted to the hospital. A thoracentesis removed 2.1 L of fluid. The patient's respiratory distress improved; however, she experienced a second episode of sudden onset shortness of breath prior to her anticipated discharge. She was afebrile, with a room air pulse oximetry of 80%, pulse of 121 beats per minute, and respiratory rate of 28. A chest x-ray (CXR) showed only a small pleural effusion remaining on the left. An electrocardiogram (EKG) showed atrial fibrillation. A chest computed tomography (CT) was performed and showed bilateral pulmonary emboli.

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