Arterial embolism

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Arterial embolism is a blood clot that moved into the arteries and ends up stuck. This can lead to blockage or reduced blood flow. The clot typically affects the legs, arms or feet.

A single clot can trigger more than one embolism. The pieces might break free and end up stuck in other body parts. Some of the emboli move to the brain, lungs, heart and kidneys.

Once an artery is clogged, it can cause tissue damage or death in the affected area. Due to this, an arterial embolism is considered as a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to prevent lasting damage.

What are the causes?

Arterial embolism
The indications of this condition are based on the site of the embolism. If any of these symptoms are present, a doctor must be seen right away.

Various factors can cause an arterial embolism. The impairment to the arteries by certain ailments or other health issues is a major cause.

High blood pressure can also elevate the risk. This is due to the weakening of the walls of the arteries which increases the risk for the blood to build up in the weakened artery and develop clots.

Other usual causes include:

  • Hardening of the arteries due to high cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Injuries to the arteries
  • Surgery that affects the blood circulation
  • Atrial fibrillation

What are the indications?

The indications of this condition are based on the site of the embolism. If any of these symptoms are present, a doctor must be seen right away.

In most cases, the symptoms might arise in the leg or arm after an embolism has formed:

  • Lack of pulse
  • Coldness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Lack of movement
  • Pale skin
  • Spasms or pain in the muscles
  • Weakness

The signs that might arise if an embolism is not treated or becomes worse include:

  • Open sores or ulcers
  • Shedding skin
  • Tissue death

Management of arterial embolism

The treatment for arterial embolism is based on the size and site of the clot. It might require drugs, surgery or both. Remember that the objective is to break up the clot and restore normal circulation.


The drugs used to manage arterial embolism include:

  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood clot formation
  • Intravenous pain medications
  • Thrombolytics to get rid of any existing emboli

Surgical intervention

Angioplasty is carried out to bypass a clot. This is a technique utilized to open blocked or constricted blood vessels.

A balloon catheter is inserted into the artery and guided into the clot. Once in position, it is inflated to open the blocked vessel. A stent is also used to provide support to the repaired walls.

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