Health A-Z


Clinical Definition

A thromboembolism is the occlusion of blood flow in a vessel due to a thrombus. It can occur if a fragment of a thrombus travels through the bloodstream from the original site of formation and lodges in a blood vessel. The thrombus obstructs blood flow in the vessel. Various consequences, such as tissue death or infarction, can occur depending on what vessel is obstructed.

In Our Own Words

A thromboembolism is the blockage of blood flow in a vessel due to a thrombus, or a type of blood clot. A blood clot can form somewhere in the body, such as the veins of the leg. Clots in veins may form due to several reasons, such as inactivity, blood clotting disorders and surgery. Another kind of thromboembolism comes from plaques in arteries (i.e., atherosclerotic plaques), which leads to thrombus formation.

Because of reduced blood flow, complications can occur, which will vary depending on where the blockage is located. For instance, when blood clots travel to brain, they can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or even a stroke; when they lodge in the vessels that go to the lung, they can cause a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Leg swelling, shortness of breath, irregular heart rate or chest pain (i.e., DVT/pulmonary embolism)
  • Confusion, numbness, trouble walking, seeing, speaking, paralysis or headache (i.e., stroke)
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