Embolus is a mass – usually part of a clotted blood or a part of atheromatosis – withdrawn in the bloodstream. Embolus can be very small. However, as the arteries penetrate into smaller blood vessels, the embolus will reach the part when it can no longer go away, which leads to clots (embolisms) and some tissues remain without sufficient blood supply.
Embolus can appear in the heart (for example, after mitral stenosis), it may be part of the bacterial colony due to bacterial endocarditis or a seldom tiny foreign body ”sucked” in the artery through the wound.
Arterial embolism – the severity depends on the site of the clot. Brain and lower limbs are usually affected. For a special type of embolism caused by the clot in the veins, see pulmonary embolism article.
Internal organ embolism is usually without symptoms until it reaches the wider area. However, it can lead to loss of function of one part of the intestine, and the symptoms of ileus appear. For symptoms of brain embolism see Stroke and Ischemia. The first symptom in other parts of the body – especially in the limbs – are pains, then “tingling” occurs, and at the end the affected area becomes numb, weakens and becomes cold. In the embolism of the arms or legs the skin first swells, then turns blue due to lack of oxygen. The embolism can affect both legs if a large embolism sticks at the bottom of the back where the aorta is divided into two parts. Such embolism can cause severe pain in the abdomen and back as well as in the legs.
Arterial embolism (generally milder in nature) is common among people over 50 years of age. Especially prone to it are people who already suffer from disorders that produce blood clots, colonies of the bacteria in the heart, or atheromas in the arteries.
If the main artery is blocked, tissues that are supplied with blood by it will die after several hours if the disorder is not treated. Blocked artery in brain can lead to stroke and death. People with aortic embolism have only 50% chances of survival.
What to do?
If you feel a pain in your hands or legs, if you feel the ”tingling” nad numbness, it is possible that you have embolism. If the symptoms are more difficult, you must first call a physician who is likely to set up the diagnosis without any special tests, although he my refer you to arteriography to determine the location of embolism.
Self-help: while waiting for medical help, hold your sick hand or leg on the cold and try to move as little as possible because it reduces the need for oxygen. For the embolism of other parts of the body there is no self-help measure.
Professional help: small embolism is usually treated with vasodilators or aspirin. In severe cases, strong analgesics relieve pain, and anticoagulant injections prevent the formation of new embolism. Additional treatment depends largely on the site and extent of the discomfort. In most cases, severe arterial embolism of the arms or legs will require urgent surgery to prevent gangrene. The operation (emblocetomy) involves the insertion of the probe into the artery for the purpose of mechanical suction of embolus. If the surgery is done on time, you will probably fully recover.