Blood Clots in the Lungs: Recovery Time and What to Expect

Having blood clots in the lungs is what is known by the medical name of “pulmonary embolism.”

What happens is that a blood clot travels through the blood and gets stuck in one of the arteries in the lungs. Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can take weeks to months to recover.

Risk factors for pulmonary embolism

There are a number of things that can increase the risk of developing blood clots in the lungs. Understanding what the dangers are can help you make changes to your lifestyle and reduce the chances of developing them. In recent years, the impact of air pollution has been a major concern for researchers.

Studies show that high levels of pollutants can increase the risk of pulmonary embolism over time. It is important that construction companies and manufacturing facilities employ air pollution control equipment to control emissions. We should all take steps to limit air pollution inside our homes too. 

Lifestyle factors like diet also have a big impact. If you are overweight, your risk of developing a blood clot in the lungs is drastically increased. Smoking is a big risk factor too, so improving your lifestyle will protect you in the future. 

Pulmonary embolism recovery

Receiving a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism or blood clots in the lungs means that you have experienced disturbing and even deadly symptoms.

Recovering from a pulmonary embolism can take some work and commitment to your health to get better.

What to expect the first days after a pulmonary embolism?

Some people can be treated at home if their clinical condition is stable enough. However, most people are hospitalized for several days.

The first few days after a stroke, they almost always include blood-thinning medications – drugs that make your blood thin. The main purpose of these medications is to help dissolve the clot and prevent new clots from forming. You will also need to receive oxygen, pain relievers, and fluids through the vein. The goal is to get the problem to stabilize.

How long is the hospitalization?

The length of time that a person with a pulmonary embolism remains in the hospital depends on several factors. First, if the body of the person is capable of dissolving the clot and second of the gravity of the same.

Some people do not even need to stay in the hospital, others may spend more than a week in the hospital.

An estimated 19% of people with pulmonary embolism are hospitalized for 5 days or less. Meanwhile, 17% of people can receive treatment at home.

Symptoms of recovery from pulmonary embolism

When you can get out of bed and walk without feeling excessive shortness of breath or pain, you should keep moving by taking a few short walks. As soon as you start walking and moving around, you will help prevent your blood from clotting. The goal is to prevent new clots from traveling to your lungs and causing another pulmonary embolism.

As your blood oxygen levels improve, it means that your recovery is already beginning. When the oxygenation level of the blood is adequate and your symptoms are controlled, your doctor will indicate that it is time to go home.

What to do during recovery at home?

Once home, it is important to make some lifestyle adjustments to continue your recovery.

The main activities to watch out for include:

Exercises for pulmonary embolism

Your doctor will give you very precise instructions on how many times a day you should move and how to do it. Regular exercise of the legs is an important component in preventing the formation of other clots.

Now, listen to your body and use common sense well. Do physical activities that are comfortable for you to do. Don’t try to speed up your recovery by doing strenuous exercise. Talk to your doctor about the right physical activity for you.

Gentle, low-impact exercises such as swimming or walking can be a good strategy during recovery.

Medications for pulmonary embolism

Your doctor will direct you to take blood-thinning medications for 3 months or more depending on your risk of developing another pulmonary embolism. Sometimes your doctor may find it necessary to continue anticoagulant treatment for the rest of your life.

It is important to adhere to the schedule of anticoagulant medication and other prescribed treatments as indicated by your doctor. However, some medications can cause side effects, some can be mild, and others can be worrisome.

Any unusual symptoms you have while taking these medications should be discussed with your doctor immediately, but you should not discontinue the medication. Keep taking the medications prescribed by your doctor until your doctor tells you that it is safe to do so.

Some people may require additional measures for recovery at home and to prevent other problems. Some of those measures include home oxygen therapy or the use of compression stockings to also prevent deep vein thrombosis. It is a condition in which blood clots travel to the extremities and block major arteries.

Diet in pulmonary embolism

Blood-thinning medications can interact with some foods and cause unwanted effects. You should avoid certain foods that are high in vitamin K, for example:

  • Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, chard, kale, among others).
  • Viscera. Like beef liver.
  • Pork chop.

It is also important to avoid alcohol, over-the-counter sleeping pills, and aspirin. These substances increase your risk of unwanted effects, such as bleeding.

Pulmonary embolism recovery and flights or travel

Once a clot forms in the blood, during the first 7 days there is a greater risk of developing complications or problems. You should not take flights or travel that involve prolonged sitting or inactivity. You must wait at least a few weeks to travel.

If you must travel or take a flight, talk to your doctor, he will help you decide when is the safest time to travel. If you have to take a long trip, it is important to move at least 5 minutes every 2 hours and drink plenty of fluids to improve your circulation. In addition, you will have more desire to go to the bathroom giving you another extra movement on your trip.

Conclusion

Pulmonary embolism is a very worrisome process, there are many stories of recovery from pulmonary embolism.

Recovery can be a long process for some, but it is by identifying and treating the cause. In addition, you can combat risk factors, to prevent future blood clots in the lung.

References

  • Dentali F, Di Micco G, Giorgi Pierfranceschi M, Gussoni G, Barillari G, Amitrano M, Fontanella A, Lodigiani C, Guida A, Visonà A, Monreal M, Di Micco P. Rate and duration of hospitalization for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in real-world clinical practice. Ann Med. 2015;47(7):546-54. doi: 10.3109/07853890.2015.1085127. Epub 2015 Sep 30. PMID: 26422329.
  • Amoury M, Noack F, Kleeberg K, Stoevesandt D, Lehnigk B, Bethge S, Heinze V, Schlitt A. Prognosis of patients with pulmonary embolism after rehabilitation. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2018 Aug 30;14:183-187. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S158815. PMID: 30214219; PMCID: PMC6121757.

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