“Law and Order’s” Dennis Farina Dies of Blood Clot in Lung

He started as a Chicago police officer, but became a well-known character actor who played roles on both sides of the law.

Dennis Farina has died at the age of 69. This rep, Lori De Waal, told the Associated Press that he had suffered a blood clot in his lung (a pulmonary embolis).

Farina’s most known film roles are those of mobster Jimmy Serrano in the comedy Midnight Run and Ray “Bones” Barboni in Get Shorty. He starred on television as Detective Joe Fontana on Law & Order from 2004-2006 . His latest TV role was in HBO’s Luck, which premiered on January 29, 2012.

What is a pulmonary embolus? (Source: NHLBI)

A pulmonary embolism, or PE, is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. The blockage usually is due to a blood clot that traveled to the lung from a vein in the leg. A clot that forms in one part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to another part of the body is called an embolus.

PE is a serious condition that can cause:

  • Permanent damage to part of the lung from lack of blood flow to lung tissue
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Damage to other organs in the body from not getting enough oxygen

If a blood clot is large, or if there are many clots, PE can cause death.


In most cases, PE is a complication of a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In DVT, blood clots form in the deep veins of the body-most often in the legs. These clots can break free, travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, and block an artery.

Who is at risk for a pulmonary embolus?

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs equally in men and women. Although risk increases with age, other factors can also increase risk, such as:

  • Recent surgery
  • Long periods of immobility (such as bed rest because of an illness, long plane flights)
  • Cancer
  • Heart problems
  • Taking oral contraceptives
  • Previous stroke or heart attack

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is treated with medicines, procedures, and other therapies. The main goals of treating PE are to stop the blood clot from getting bigger and keep new clots from forming.

Treatment may include medicines to thin the blood and slow its ability to clot. If symptoms are life threatening, a doctor may use a medicine, such as TPA, to dissolve the clot more quickly. Rarely, physicians may use surgery or another procedure to remove the clot.


At least 100,000 cases of PE occur each year in the United States. PE is the third most common cause of death in hospitalized patients. If left untreated, about 30 percent of patients who have PE will die. Most of those who die do so within the first few hours of the event.

For more information about pulmonary embolism, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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