Pulmonary embolism

Find out how to prevent blood clots if you're at risk of developing them, such as taking anticoagulants, wearing compression stockings and increasing your mobility.

If you're at risk of developing blood clots, a number of things may be recommended to help prevent a pulmonary embolism.


If you're admitted to hospital to have surgery, your care team may recommend that you take an anticoagulant, such as warfarin, during your stay in hospital and when you go home.

This medication alters chemicals in your blood so that clots don't form easily.

Read more about anticoagulants.

Compression stockings

It may also be recommended that you wear compression stockings and use compression devices while you're in hospital and after you go home.

Compression stockings fit tightly around your lower legs and encourage your blood to flow more quickly around your body.

Compression devices are inflatable and work in a similar way, expanding at regular intervals to squeeze your legs and encourage the flow of blood.

Increasing mobility

Pulmonary embolisms can sometimes occur when the blood flow slows down during a long period of inactivity, such as during recovery from surgery or long-distance travel.

It's therefore important that you increase your mobility as soon as possible after surgery by moving around or doing leg exercises. Also, avoid taking long journeys for four weeks after you come out of hospital.

If you're at risk of developing blood clots, consult your GP before travelling long distances. They can advise about ways to reduce your chance of a clot developing during your journey, such as:

  • performing simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles
  • taking occasional short walks when possible
  • taking advantage of refuelling stopovers, where it may be possible to get out and walk about
  • wearing elastic compression stockings

Read more about preventing blood clots when you travel.

Smoking, diet and exercise

You can also reduce your risk of developing a pulmonary embolism by:

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