An embolism occurs when a blood clot, also known as an embolus, travels through the bloodstream and forms a blockage. The occlusion of a blood vessel caused by an embolus that travels from the heart is known as a cardiac source of embolism.
An embolus is frequently a blood clot, according to a 2021 article. It can also be made up of air, fat, amniotic fluid, or a tumor.
A cardiac embolism can move to other parts of the body, potentially causing life-threatening consequences.
A cardiac embolism is defined in this article. It will also look into the signs, symptoms, causes, and risk factors associated with a cardiac embolism. Finally, it discusses how healthcare experts detect the condition and how a person might aid in its prevention.
What is cardiac Embolism?
A cardiac embolism causes a blockage in an artery, reducing blood flow. A cardiac embolus, which starts in the heart, causes them. A cardiac thrombus is a blood clot that originates in the heart and becomes an embolism when it travels.
A person may face various issues depending on where the blockage develops, such as:
- A blockage in the heart’s blood vessels can lead to a heart attack.
- A blockage in the organs can lead to organ damage.
- A blockage in the limbs can lead to a peripheral embolism.
When a cardiac embolus enters the brain, it can create a cardiac embolism, which can result in a cardioembolic stroke, according to physicians. These strokes account for around a quarter of all ischemic strokes.
When a part of the brain is quickly deprived of blood, it is called an acute stroke. Ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes are the two types of strokes that can occur.
Ischemic strokes account for 85 percent of all acute strokes. They happen when something stops the flow of blood to the brain’s blood vessels.
Depending on which artery is blocked, the symptoms may vary.
If a blood clot forms in the blood veins surrounding the heart, a person may suffer the following symptoms, according to the American Heart Association (AHA):
- shortness of breath
- discomfort in the arms, neck, back, or jaw
- chest pain
A person may also experience:
A heart attack is caused by a blood clot obstructing the blood arteries that feed blood to the heart.
A blood clot in the heart that is merely sitting there may not create any symptoms.
A person will suffer stroke symptoms if a blood clot travels to the carotid arteries and produces a cardioembolic stroke.
Cardioembolic strokes are more likely than other strokes to produce seizures, according to an analysis published in 2021.
When an embolus travels from the heart and forms a blockage in an artery, it is called a cardiac source of embolism. An embolus can have a variety of causes, including:
- a blood clot
- other substance
In the heart, benign tumors can occur. Atrial myxomas are the most prevalent type. An embolism is a complication that occurs in 30–50% of people with myxomas.
The formation of a blood clot in the heart can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Endocarditis is one example. This is an infection of the heart’s lining. Septic emboli are infected blood clots that form at the site of infection and spread to other parts of the body. This is a common endocarditis complication.
According to the American Cardiac Association, the following factors can raise the risk of a heart clot:
- Atrial fibrillation: This is a condition that causes an irregular and fast heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation is the most common cause of cardioembolic stroke because the blood clots form in the left atrial appendage in the heart and travel to the brain.
- Heart failure: This weakens the heart. Blood clots can form, as the heart is unable to pump blood around the body.
- Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats and cholesterol in the artery walls. Plaque can build up and restrict the blood flow in the arteries. If the plaque ruptures, the fats and cholesterol can travel through the body, leading to a blood clot.
- Vasculitis: Vasculitis causes the blood vessels to become inflamed. Clots can form when the platelets stick to the damaged blood vessels.
Depending on the type of embolus, different risk factors may arise.
According to the American Society of Hematology, the following factors can raise the risk of blood clots:
- having obesity
- taking oral contraceptives
- being over age 60
- a family history of blood clots
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- having heart failure
- having atrial fibrillation
An air embolus can occur as a result of scuba diving and during some medical procedures.
Risk factors for fat embolisms include:
- being young in age
- closed bone fractures
- multiple bone fractures
- long-term conservative treatment for fractures, such as casts and splints
A healthcare professional may perform the following tests to diagnose a cardiac embolism:
- electrocardiograms, which measure the heart’s activity
- transesophageal or transthoracic echocardiogram, which measure heart functionality and structure and look for clots in the heart
- MRI and CT scans to measure brain function or look at blood vessels in the brain, the neck, or around the body
- blood tests to assess for damage to the heart muscle
- carotid ultrasound, which is an imaging test that examines the inside of the carotid arteries
The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom states that the treatment for an embolism is dependent on the cause of the blockage, as well as the size and location of the blockage.
A healthcare provider may administer drugs to dissolve blood clots as a treatment.
An embolectomy can also be performed by a surgeon. A surgeon will make an incision in the artery and remove the clot using a technique known as aspiration.
The prevention of a cardiac embolism, according to SecondsCount.org, is dependent on the probable risk factors.
A healthcare provider may prescribe blood-thinning medication, such as anticoagulants, if a person is at risk of developing blood clots.
If a person has a cardiac condition, such as atrial fibrillation, drugs to assist regulate their heart’s rhythm may be prescribed.
The following procedures can also be performed by a healthcare professional:
- Electrical cardioversion: An electric shock can restart the heart’s normal rhythm.
- Catheter ablation: A doctor destroys the small amounts of heart tissue that are sending signals that cause atrial fibrillation.
- Left atrial appendage closure: This is a procedure to help prevent blood from collecting and clotting.
If a person is at risk of heart failure, taking preventative measures can help lower the risk of blood clots. To lower the risk of heart failure, a person can take the following steps:
- trying to stop smoking, if applicable
- eating heart-healthy foods, such as:
- low fat dairy
- lean proteins
- trying to maintain a moderate weight
- monitoring and managing any existing heart conditions
A healthcare expert may prescribe surgery if the embolism is made up of fat or air.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have a blood clot in your heart or are experiencing any of the symptoms of a blood clot in your heart, you should see a doctor.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of a cardioembolic stroke should seek medical help right away. If you have a condition that raises your chance of stroke, even if you don’t have any symptoms, you should see a doctor.
A cardiac source of embolism results in a blocked artery as a result of a blood clot forming in one of the heart chambers.
A multitude of factors can cause blood clots in the heart, including atrial fibrillation or cardiomyopathy/congestive heart failure.
A cardioembolic stroke can occur if a blood clot goes to the brain.
A healthcare provider may prescribe blood-thinning drugs if a person has a condition that raises the risk of blood clots. They may also carry out operations to prevent blood clots and to restore the heart’s natural rhythm or pumping function.