Learn About Arterial Embolism

What is the definition of Arterial Embolism?

Arterial embolism refers to a clot (embolus) that has come from another part of the body and causes a sudden interruption of blood flow to an organ or body part.

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What are the causes of Arterial Embolism?

An "embolus" is a blood clot or a piece of plaque that acts like a clot. The word "emboli" means there is more than one clot or piece of plaque. When the clot travels from the site where it formed to another location in the body, it is called an embolism.

An arterial embolism may be caused by one or more clots. The clots can get stuck in an artery and block blood flow. The blockage starves tissues of blood and oxygen. This can result in damage or tissue death (necrosis).

Arterial emboli often occur in the legs and feet. Emboli that occur in the brain cause a stroke. Ones that occur in the heart cause a heart attack. Less common sites include the kidneys, intestines, and eyes.

Arterial embolism

Risk factors for arterial embolism include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation
  • Injury or damage to an artery wall
  • Conditions that increase blood clotting

Another condition that poses a high risk for embolization (especially to the brain) is mitral stenosis. Endocarditis (infection of the inside of the heart) can also cause arterial emboli.

A common source for an embolus is from areas of hardening (atherosclerosis) in the aorta and other large blood vessels. These clots can break loose and flow down to the legs and feet.

Paradoxical embolization can take place when a clot in a vein enters the right side of the heart and passes through a hole into the left side. The clot can then move to an artery and block blood flow to the brain (stroke) or other organs.

If a clot travels and lodges in the arteries supplying blood flow to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolus.

What are the symptoms of Arterial Embolism?

You may not have any symptoms.

Symptoms may begin quickly or slowly depending on the size of the embolus and how much it blocks the blood flow.

Symptoms of an arterial embolism in the arms or legs may include:

  • Cold arm or leg
  • Decreased or no pulse in an arm or leg
  • Lack of movement in the arm or leg
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Numbness and tingling in the arm or leg
  • Pale color of the arm or leg (pallor)
  • Weakness of an arm or leg

Later symptoms:

  • Blisters of the skin fed by the affected artery
  • Shedding (sloughing) of skin
  • Skin erosion (ulcer)
  • Tissue death (necrosis; skin is dark and damaged)

Symptoms of a clot in an organ vary with the organ involved but may include:

  • Pain in the part of the body that is involved
  • Temporarily decreased organ function
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What are the current treatments for Arterial Embolism?

Arterial embolism requires prompt treatment at a hospital. The goals of treatment are to control symptoms and to improve the interrupted blood flow to the affected area of the body. The cause of the clot, if found, should be treated to prevent further problems.

Medicines include:

  • Anticoagulants (such as warfarin or heparin) can prevent new clots from forming
  • Antiplatelet medicines (such as aspirin or clopidogrel) can prevent new clots from forming
  • Painkillers given through a vein (by IV)
  • Thrombolytics (such as streptokinase) can dissolve clots

Some people need surgery. Procedures include:

  • Bypass of the artery (arterial bypass) to create a second source of blood supply
  • Clot removal through a balloon catheter placed into the affected artery or through open surgery on the artery (embolectomy)
  • Opening of the artery with a balloon catheter (angioplasty) with or without a stent
Who are the top Arterial Embolism Local Doctors?
Distinguished
Highly rated in
17
conditions
Vascular Surgery
General Surgery

Nebraska Medicine

Heart And Vascular Center At Durham Outpatient Center

4400 Emile St 
Omaha, NE 68198

Gernon Longo is a Vascular Surgeon and a General Surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska. Dr. Longo has been practicing medicine for over 26 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Arterial Embolism. He is also highly rated in 17 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Carotid Artery Disease, Arterial Embolism, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, and Peripheral Artery Disease. He is licensed to treat patients in Nebraska. Dr. Longo is currently accepting new patients.

Distinguished
Highly rated in
15
conditions
Vascular Surgery

ProMedica Health System

Jobst Vascular Institute Vein Care

5700 Monroe St 
Toledo, OH 43606

Todd Russell is a Vascular Surgeon in Toledo, Ohio. Dr. Russell has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Arterial Embolism. He is also highly rated in 15 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Carotid Artery Disease, Arterial Embolism, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, and Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm. He is licensed to treat patients in Ohio. Dr. Russell is currently accepting new patients.

 
 
 
 
Learn about our expert tiers
Learn more
Distinguished
Highly rated in
18
conditions
Vascular Surgery
General Surgery

Baystate Health

Baystate Vascular Services

164 High St 
Greenfield, MA 1301

Marvin Morris is a Vascular Surgeon and a General Surgeon in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Morris has been practicing medicine for over 22 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Arterial Embolism. He is also highly rated in 18 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Carotid Artery Disease, Peripheral Artery Disease, and Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm. He is licensed to treat patients in Massachusetts. Dr. Morris is currently accepting new patients.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Arterial Embolism?

How well a person does depends on the location of the clot and how much the clot has blocked blood flow and for how long the blockage has been present. Arterial embolism can be very serious if not treated promptly.

The affected area can be permanently damaged. Amputation is needed in up to 1 in 4 cases.

Arterial emboli can come back even after successful treatment.

What are the possible complications of Arterial Embolism?

Complications may include:

  • Acute MI
  • Infection in the affected tissue
  • Septic shock
  • Stroke (CVA)
  • Temporary or permanent decrease or loss of other organ functions
  • Temporary or permanent kidney failure
  • Tissue death (necrosis) and gangrene
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
When should I contact a medical professional for Arterial Embolism?

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of arterial embolism.

How do I prevent Arterial Embolism?

Prevention begins with finding possible sources of a blood clot. Your provider may prescribe blood thinners (such as warfarin or heparin) to prevent clots from forming. Antiplatelet drugs may also be needed.

You have a higher risk atherosclerosis and clots if you:

  • Smoke
  • Do little exercise
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Have diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are stressed
Circulatory system
What are the latest Arterial Embolism Clinical Trials?
Returning Genome and Metabolome Data to FinTerveys 2017 Participants: P5.fi
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Neoadjuvant Transcatheter Arterial Chemoinfusion and Embolism (TACiE) for Patients With Locally Advanced Adenocarcinoma of Stomach and Gastroesophageal Junction: a Prospective, Phase 2, Single Arm Trial.
What are the Latest Advances for Arterial Embolism?
Clinical application of expanded internal mammary artery perforator flap combined with vascular supercharge in reconstruction of faciocervical scar.
Renovascular Disease and Mesenteric Vascular Disease.
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Concomitant pulmonary embolism and upper limb ischaemia as a first presentation of a patent foramen ovale.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : July 07, 2020
Published By : Thomas S. Metkus, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Aufderheide TP. Peripheral arteriovascular disease. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 77.

Gerhard-Herman MD, Gornik HL, Barrett C, et al. 2016 AHA/ACC guideline on the management of patients with lower extremity peripheral artery disease: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69(11):1465-1508. PMID: 27851991 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27851991/.

Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 45.

Kline JA. Pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 78.

Wyers MC, Martin MC. Acute mesenteric arterial disease. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 133.