Massive pulmonary embolism has been reported to occur with the use of lower extremity tourniquets. We used transesophageal echocardiography to determine the incidence of venous embolism during lower extremity orthopedic surgery performed with a pneumatic tourniquet. The hemodynamic and respiratory consequences of all embolic events were assessed. Venous emboli were detected after tourniquet deflation in 8 of 30 procedures. The incidence of embolism was unrelated to the type of surgical procedure performed or the duration of tourniquet inflation. There were no significant differences in preoperative characteristics or postdeflation hemodynamic and respiratory responses between patients with and without emboli. Venous embolization is a relatively common event after tourniquet deflation. The clinical significance of these events remains to be determined.