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Pulmonary Edema

Erlanger Respiratory, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine
979 East 3rd St.
Suite C-735
Chattanooga, TN 37403
423-778-9101

What is Pulmonary Edema?

Pulmonary Edema is an accumulation of excess fluid in the lungs that can make breathing difficult. Pulmonary edema is often caused by congestive heart failure. When the heart is not able to pump efficiently, blood can back up into the veins that take blood through the lungs. As the pressure in these blood vessels increases, fluid is pushed into the air spaces (alveoli) in the lungs.The lung is a complex organ, and there are many causes of this excess fluid accumulation. Regardless of the cause, fluid makes it difficult for the lungs to function (to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with cells in the bloodstream).

What are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema?

  • Shortness of breath that worsens when lying flat
  • Breath sounds that are wheezy or bubbly/ wet sounding
  • Coughing up pink frothy spit
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate and/ or palpitations
  • Fluid retention
  • Suffocating or drowning feeling
  • Skin that is blue or gray in color due to low oxygen in the body
  • Diaphoretic (sweaty), dizziness, lightheaded, or decreased blood pressure

Sudden onset of these symptoms can be life threatening. Seek medical attention immediately.

How is Pulmonary Edema Diagnosed?

  • Accurate medical history
  • Physical exam by a physician
  • Arterial blood gas
  • Pulse oximetry to monitor oxygen saturation
  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Pulmonary and Cardiac Catherization

How is Pulmonary EdemaTreated?

Treatment of Pulmonary Edema depends on the underlying cause.

  • Supplemental oxygen to increase saturation if low
  • Diuretics like Lasix can be used to lower pressures of the lung and heart
  • Morphine for shortness of breath and/or anxiety
  • Medications to treat blood pressure
  • Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise

What Resources Does Erlanger Offer for Pulmonary Edema?