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Arterial Embolism Definition

An embolism is a clot that obstructs blood flow. An arterial embolism can be defined as a blood clot that has travelled through your arteries and become stuck , causing tissue damage in that area. An arterial embolism requires immediate medical attention in order to prevent permanent injury.

Arterial Embolism Symptoms

An embolism has different stages and each of these stages have symptoms depending on the extent of damage already caused.

Depending on where the clot forms, arterial thrombosis and embolism can cause several serious conditions, including:

  • Heart Attack when the flow of blood to the heart is unexpectedly clogged
  • Stroke when blood flow to the brain is cut off
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), alternatively known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD) when a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries curbs the supply of blood to leg muscles

Symptoms you may notice in an arm or leg after an embolism has formed:

  • Shivering
  • Lack of movement
  • Lack of pulse
  • Feeling of numbness
  • Muscle pain or spasm
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • These symptoms will most likely be asymmetrical which means they will only appear on the side of your body with the embolism.

Symptoms that might surface if an embolism worsens or is not treated:

  • Ulcers
  • Signs of shedding skin
  • Tissue death

If you feel some/any/all of the above symptoms, prompt medical attention is highly advised

Arterial Embolism Risk Factors

You may be at risk for an arterial embolism if you:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are a smoker
  • Have an existing heart disease
  • Have an abnormally fast heart rate
  • Eat a diet high in cholesterol
  • Have had surgery recently

Arterial Embolism Diagnosis

In order to diagnose an arterial embolism, your doctor will first check for a decrease in your pulse or heart rate to ensure there are no dead tissues. If there is lack of a local pulse it may mean that the embolism has resulted in tissue death. Apart from this, he/she may also use the following tests to locate any other embolisms in your body:

  • Angiogram study the blood vessels for anomaly
  • Doppler ultrasound tracks blood flow
  • MRI takes images of the body to locate blood clots

Arterial Embolism Treatment

Treatment for an arterial embolism may be divided into medication and surgery.


  • Anticoagulants can be used to prevent blood clots
  • Intravenous pain medication may also be needed

Surgery and Other procedures

Surgery for arterial thrombosis entails unblocking the concerned artery or re-routing the flow of blood around the blockage. The type of surgery will vary depending on the spot and severity of the condition.

Reducing Risk

It isn’t possible to entirely prevent blood clots from forming, but there are numerous ways to minimise the risk.

  • Cutting down on smoking
  • Reducing the amount of salt intake
  • Cutting down on fat (saturated fat)
  • Intake of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday
  • A combination of moderate-intensity exercise per week

UPDATED ON 14/05/2024

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