Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Font Size

Pulmonary Embolism - What Happens

If a large blood clot blocks the artery in the lung, blood flow may be completely stopped, causing sudden death. A smaller clot reduces the blood flow and may cause damage to lung tissue. But if the clot dissolves on its own, it may not cause any major problems.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism usually begin suddenly. Reduced blood flow to one or both lungs can cause shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate. Inflammation of the tissue covering the lungs and chest wall (pleura) can cause sharp chest pain.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD)

Important It is possible that the main title of the report Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.

Read the Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) article > >

Without treatment, pulmonary embolism is likely to come back.

Complications of pulmonary embolism

Doctors will consider aggressive steps when they are treating a large, life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Chronic or recurring pulmonary embolism

Blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism may dissolve on their own. But if you have had pulmonary embolism, you have an increased risk of a repeat episode if you do not receive treatment. If pulmonary embolism is diagnosed promptly, treatment with anticoagulant medicines may prevent new blood clots from forming.

The risk of having another pulmonary embolism caused by something other than blood clots varies. Substances that are reabsorbed into the body, such as air, fat, or amniotic fluid, usually do not increase the risk of having another episode. Cancer increases the risk of blood clots.

Having multiple episodes of pulmonary embolism can severely reduce blood flow through the lungs and heart. Over time, this increases blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), eventually leading to right-sided heart failure and possibly death.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Hot Tub Disease
Article
Lung Disease Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
 
Cigarette butts in ashtray
Article
Household Hazards For People With Copd
Article
 

Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
 
Living With Copd
VIDEO
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

cigarette butts snuffed out in ashtray
SLIDESHOW
Healthy Home Health Check
TOOL
 
Senior woman stretching
Article
Diagnosing Copd
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections