This study was designed to investigate the impact of acute pulmonary embolism (PE) on plasma and tissue hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). PE was established in 16 New Zealand white rabbits by intravenous injection of autologous blood clots. Another 16 sham-operated rabbits were used as control. Plasma HGF levels and tissue HGF expression was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunohistochemistry, respectively.The plasma HGF levels in the PE group were elevated 1 h after PE (P<0.01). In the lung tissue samples, the positive HGF expression ratio was 91.7% and 20.8%, respectively, in the PE and the control group (P<0.01). The positive HGF expression ratio in the right ventricular tissue samples in the PE group was higher than in the control group (75.0% vs 20.9%, P<0.01). The positive HGF expression ratio in the liver samples in the PE and the control groups was 33.3% and 16.7%, respectively (P<0.05). In conclusion, acute PE was associated with a significant increase in plasma HGF. Acute PE was also associated with an enhanced HGF expression in the lungs, the right ventricle and the liver.