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Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blocked blood vessel in your lungs. It can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

If a GP thinks you've got a pulmonary embolism, you'll be sent to hospital for further tests and treatment.

At hospital, you'll probably be given an injection of anticoagulant medicine before you get any test results.

Anticoagulants stop blood clots getting bigger and prevent new clots forming.

If tests confirm you have a pulmonary embolism, you'll continue with anticoagulant injections for at least 5 days.

You'll also need to take anticoagulant tablets for at least 3 months.

You should make a full recovery from a pulmonary embolism if it's spotted and treated early.

A pulmonary embolism often happens when part of the blood clot dislodges itself from your leg and travels up to your lungs, causing a blockage.

There are measures you can take to lower your risk of getting a pulmonary embolism.

If you're being treated in hospital for another condition, your medical team should take steps to prevent DVT.

A DVT can occasionally develop on journeys lasting more than 6 hours.

To reduce your risk of getting a travel-related DVT:


  • sit comfortably in your seat and lie back as much as possible

  • wear loose-fitting clothing

  • make sure you have plenty of leg room

  • drink water regularly

  • take regular breaks from sitting

  • bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes every 30 minutes while seated

  • press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor every so often

  • wear flight socks


  • do not sit for long periods without moving

  • do not drink alcohol

  • do not drink too much coffee and other caffeine-based drinks

  • do not take sleeping pills