Discharge Instructions for Pulmonary Embolism

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a large vein deep in a leg, arm, or elsewhere in the body. The clot can separate from the vein, travel to the lungs and cut off blood flow. This is a pulmonary embolism (PE). Pulmonary embolism is very serious and may cause death. 

Health care providers use the term venous thromboembolism (VTE) to describe both DVT and PE. They use the term VTE because the 2 conditions are very closely related. And, because their prevention and treatment are closely related. 

Home care

Taking care of yourself is very important. To help prevent more blood clots from forming, follow your health care provider's instructions. You should:

  • Take your medicines exactly as instructed. Don’t skip doses. If you miss a dose, call your health care provider and ask what you should do.  

  • Have all lab tests as recommended. This is very important when you take medicines to prevent blood clots. 

  • If your health care provider has instructed you to do so, wear elastic (compression stockings).

  • Get up and get moving.

  • While sitting for long periods of time, move your knees, ankles, feet, and toes.

Lifestyle changes

To help prevent problems with your heart and blood vessels, you should do the following: 

  • If you smoke, think about quitting. Talk with your health care provider about medications and programs that can help.

  • Stay at a healthy weight. Talk to your health care provider about losing weight, if you are overweight

  • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. Before starting an exercise program, talk with your health care provider. 

  • When traveling by car, make frequent stops to get up and move around.

  • On long airplane rides, get up and move around when possible. If you can’t get up, wiggle your toes, move your ankles and tighten your calves to keep your blood moving.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed

Have your lab work done as directed.


When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider if you have pain, swelling, and redness in your leg, arm, or other body area. These symptoms may mean another blood clot.

And, call your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of bleeding, like blood in your urine, bleeding with bowel movements, or bleeding from the nose, gums, a cut, or vagina. 

Call 911

Call 911 or get emergency help if you have symptoms of a blood clot in the lungs including: 

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Coughing (may cough up blood)

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Sweating

  • Fainting

Also call 911 if you have:

  • Heavy or uncontrolled bleeding. If you are taking a blood thinner, you have an increased chance of bleeding.