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
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.
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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
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this