Recovery & Support for Pulmonary Embolism

Recovery from pulmonary embolism can vary based on the severity of the condition and the treatment. If NYU Langone doctors have treated you with medication only, for instance, you may recover rapidly. It may take months, however, for people who’ve had open surgery to regain their strength.

Follow-Up Care

Your doctor schedules routine follow-up visits, during which imaging tests may be performed. This helps your doctor to check for signs of new blood clots forming in the legs that can lead to pulmonary embolism. These tests also allow your doctor to monitor the health of your blood vessels and the way blood flows through them.

If you show signs of pulmonary hypertension—when blood pressure in the lungs is too high, taxing your heart—after experiencing pulmonary embolism, your NYU Langone vascular specialist refers you to a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in managing lung and respiratory conditions.

Preventing Recurrence

NYU Langone vascular specialists often recommend combining medication and lifestyle changes to manage the long-term risks of a recurrence of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Some of these recommendations include staying active, drinking more fluids, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and avoiding hormone therapy, such as the use of oral contraceptives.

Compression Garments

NYU Langone doctors almost always recommend that people with pulmonary embolism wear graduated compression stockings during daily activities. These are generally not worn when you sleep.

These prescription garments squeeze the calves and legs, encouraging healthy blood flow. Compression helps prevent blood from pooling in the legs and the development of deep vein thrombosis, which can lead to pulmonary embolism. 

The use of compression garments is especially important in the prevention or minimization of symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome, which occurs as a result of damaged veins. In this syndrome, the valves of the veins become scarred and incompetent, or “leaky,” due to deep vein thrombosis. This can lead to long-term symptoms of leg heaviness, swelling, and discoloration. 

Pneumatic Compression

Your doctor may recommend pneumatic compression if you have a history of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Pneumatic compression cuffs are placed around the thighs, calves, or arms, either over or beneath your clothing. They inflate and deflate every few minutes to restore and maintain healthy blood flow.

The cuffs are connected to a portable compression machine through tubes that attach to various points on the cuffs. They are generally worn at the hospital, while you are immobile during recovery or rehabilitation.

Monitoring During Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant may experience pulmonary embolism as a result of increased pressure on the pelvis and veins in the legs. If this occurs, an NYU Langone vascular surgeon works closely with your obstetrician to determine the best treatment plan for you.

Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation

NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation offers cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. Our physiatrists, who are rehabilitation physicians, work closely with our cardiologists and pulmonologists to address your cardiopulmonary needs during recovery from pulmonary embolism.

The team physiatrist, who specializes in treating heart and lung conditions, works with you to identify your medical rehabilitation needs and treatment goals. Based on these objectives, the physiatrist and the cardiologist collaborate with the rehabilitation team to develop an individualized rehabilitation plan.

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation typically includes a 12-week exercise and lifestyle program that begins after you’ve been released from the hospital. The program is designed to improve your breathing, increase your strength and exercise capacity, and allow you to perform daily activities.

Our experts work with you to reduce your symptoms of fatigue and improve your energy levels and endurance. An NYU Langone nutritionist can also help you to improve your diet.

Our doctors can provide guidance about quitting smoking. NYU Langone offers Tobacco Cessation Programs, as well as support services that can help you to reduce stress levels. In addition, you’re invited to participate in weekly educational seminars that provide information about all aspects of cardiopulmonary wellbeing.

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