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Discharge Instructions for Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when an embolus (clot) in the bloodstream travels through the heart and into the lungs. If the embolus becomes stuck in a blood vessel in the lungs, blood flow can be blocked. Symptoms can quickly develop and cause life-threatening heart and lung problems.

Home care

  • Take your medications exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • Ask your doctor about daily aspirin therapy.

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, unless directed otherwise.

  • Learn to take your own pulse. Keep a record of your results. Ask your doctor which readings mean that you need medical attention.

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid sitting, standing, or lying down for long periods without moving your legs and feet.

  • When traveling by car, stop to get out and move around at least once every 3 hours. On long airplane, train, or bus rides, get up and move around when possible. If you can’t get up, wiggle your toes and tighten your calves to keep your blood moving.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Get help to lose any extra pounds.

  • If you are a smoker, break the smoking habit. Enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success.

  • Be active. Begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor how to get started. You can benefit from simple activities such as walking or gardening.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to seek medical care

Call the health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain (call 911)

  • Trouble breathing (call 911)

  • Coughing up blood (call 911)

  • Fainting (call 911)

  • Skin turns blue (call 911)

  • Dizziness

  • Rapid, pounding, or unusual heartbeat

  • Sweating more than usual

  • Unusual swelling or pain in your leg

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 8/7/2014
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