Embolism

Synonyms: Embolus, Blood clot

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Family practice, Internal medicine


Clinical Definition

Embolism refers to the occlusion of a blood vessel by an embolus (mass) that moves down the bloodstream and gets lodged in a blood vessel, causing circulation problems.


In Our Own Words

An embolism is when an embolus, which is a clump, bubble or mass, gets stuck in the bloodstream and causes a blockage. Embolisms are almost always from a blood clot but other types of emboli are also possible (a fat mass, a foreign body, etc.).

Perhaps the most significant and feared type of embolism is the pulmonary embolism (PE). In a PE, the blood clot typically forms in the veins of the legs, then breaks off and travels to the heart or lodges in the blood vessels of the lungs. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Prolonged immobilization
  • Blood clotting propensity
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cancer
  • Complications after surgery or childbirth
Common Types
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Venous thromboembolism
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sources
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Pulmonary embolism." Diseases & Conditions. Oct. 2009. clevelandclinic.org. Accessed July 2013.
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Pulmonary embolism." Diseases & Conditions. Oct. 2009. clevelandclinic.org. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. "Data & Statistics." June 12, 2012. cdc.gov. Accessed July 2013.
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