Pulmonary Embolism: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Pulmonary embolism is the sudden blockage of an artery in the lung. Blood clots in the deep veins of the leg or pelvis (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) are the most common cause. These blood clots can travel to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism can be very serious. Because you have had one pulmonary embolism, you are at greater risk for having another one. But you can take steps to prevent another pulmonary embolism by following your doctor's instructions.

You will probably take a prescription blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots. A blood thinner can stop a blood clot from growing larger and prevent new clots from forming.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If you are taking a blood thinner, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Preventing future pulmonary embolisms

  • Exercise. Keep blood moving in your legs to keep clots from forming. If you are travelling by car, stop every hour or so. Get out and walk around for a few minutes. If you are travelling by bus, train, or plane, get out of your seat and walk up and down the aisles every hour or so. You also can do leg exercises while you are seated. Pump your feet up and down by pulling your toes up toward your knees then pointing them down.
  • Get up out of bed as soon as possible after an illness or surgery.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Check with your doctor before taking hormone or birth control pills. These may increase your risk of blot clots.
  • Ask your doctor about wearing compression stockings to help prevent blood clots in your legs. You can buy these with a prescription at medical supply stores and some drugstores.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worsening pain or swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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