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Arterial Embolism

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Thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot, tissue, gas bubble, tumor or any other foreign body circulates within the blood stream and creates a blockage in any blood vessel. When a piece or the entire clot breaks off from its site and travels to another part of the artery causing blockage, it is called as an embolism.

What is Arterial Embolism?

Arterial embolism is an interruption of blood flow into an organ or other body parts due to an embolus. An arterial embolism is the major cause of tissue death due to lack of oxygen due to obstruction in tissue blood supply. It is, thus, a medical emergency and can lead to permanent damage.

Symptoms of Arterial Embolism

Symptoms of an arterial embolism may develop suddenly or over time. They also depend on the location as well as the severity of the blockage. They also depend on the organ involved. Some of the common symptoms of arterial embolism include:

  • Pain in the affected body part
  • Temporary decrease in the organ functioning ability
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Pain or muscle spasms
  • Pale skin
  • Infraction of the affected tissue

In case of myocardial infraction, the symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dyspnea
  • Diaphoresis
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Paralysis of affected limb

Causes and Risk Factors for Arterial Embolism

Arterial embolism is mostly caused by thromboembolism. Other  causes include injury or damage to artery wall as well as hypercoagulability. Other major causes include:

  • Mitral stenosis
  • Endocarditis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cholesterol embolism

Risk factors for arterial embolism include:

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Advanced age
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Recent surgery that causes thromboembolism as well as air embolism
  • Previous history of stroke or heart disease
  • Bone fracture leading to fat embolism

Diagnosis of Arterial Embolism

Tests to determine arterial embolism include:

  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Echocardiography
  • Arteriography
  • Angiography
  • MRI
  • Electrocardiography
  • Angioscopy
  • Blood tests to determine elevated enzymes in the blood

Treatment for Arterial Embolism

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Treatment includes medications as well as surgery for arterial embolism. Medications include:

  • Antithrombotic medications
  • Anticoagulants
  • Pain killers
  • Vasodilators

Surgical procedures include:

  • Arterial bypass surgery
  • Embolectomy
  • Angioplasty with balloon cauterization
  • Embolectomy

Prognosis for Arterial Embolism

The prognosis depends on the location and extent of the clot blocking the blood flow. Without treatment,it can lead to about 35% mortality in affected people. In 25% people, it can lead to permanent damage and requires amputation of the affected limb.

Complication of Arterial Embolism

Arterial embolism can lead to:

  • Myocardial infraction
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Stroke
  • Tissue necrosis
  • Gangrene
  • Septic embolism
  • Temporary or permanent loss of other organ functions

Arterial embolism is a serious condition and requires medical attention. Consult your doctor, if you fall under the risk prone group or observe any of the symptoms for quick treatment and management of arterial embolism.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 06, 2015

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