Massive pulmonary embolism in the setting of syncope and cardiac arrest is often fatal if not rapidly diagnosed. The author presents a case study of a patient with pulmonary embolism, and discusses risk factors, signs and symptoms, diagnostic findings, treatment goals, and patient education.

Whenever a “Code Blue Maternity” is announced over the hospital’s loudspeaker, a collective sigh and silent prayer go up among the staff. Such an event is especially traumatic to hospital personnel during the holiday season. Our surgical intensive care and maternity units are worlds apart, but these worlds collided one December afternoon when a 35-year-old patient, whom we will refer to as Shelby, had a cardiac arrest shortly after an uneventful cesarean-section delivery at 35 weeks’ gestation. The delivery had produced a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Reports of the patient becoming acutely dyspneic, hypotensive, syncopal, and suffering cardiac arrest quickly filtered through the hallways.

Only moments...

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