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Pulmonary embolism statistics

A pulmonary embolism happens when a blood vessel in your lungs becomes blocked. In most cases, the blockage is caused by a blood clot travelling up from one of the
deep veins in your legs. This kind of clot is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

The cause of pulmonary embolism is often unknown. It can happen for no obvious reason. Your chance of pulmonary embolism increases when you have been inactive for a long time. This can happen on long plane journeys, or when staying in bed in hospital. Around half of all people who develop a pulmonary embolism do so while they are in hospital.

Deaths from pulmonary embolism

How many people died from pulmonary embolism 2008 - 2012

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of people who died from pulmonary embolism went down by 30%. There were 2,300 deaths from the condition in 2012. Patients being risk-assessed for the condition when admitted to hospital could be one reason for this. If judged to be high-risk, they are given anticoagulants to reduce blood clotting.

Another factor could be the greater awareness of some of the causes of pulmonary embolism, such as sitting still for long periods on planes. Improvements to oral contraceptives may also be a factor (high-oestrogen pills increase the risk).

More research is needed to fully understand this decline in mortality from pulmonary embolism.

UK deaths from pulmonary embolism compared with other lung diseases, 2012

Pulmonary embolism mortality ratios by UK regions, males and females, 2008–12

Hospital admissions and incidence

Hospital admissions for pulmonary embolism

Using hospital admissions as an indicator of incidence, the condition accounted for nearly 28,000 hospital admissions and 250,000 bed days in 2011. Emergency admissions for pulmonary embolism increased by 30% in the period 2008 to 2012. However, the figures we looked at do not include occurrences of the disease while already in hospital, for example after surgery, which have been estimated to account for around half of all cases.

Our figures are therefore likely to be a considerable underestimate of the true incidence of pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary embolism hospital admission ratios, males and females, in each UK region, 2008–12