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Arterial embolism

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Arterial embolism

(Science: cardiology, physiology) a sudden interruption in arterial blood flow to an organ or body part (extremity). The blockage is caused by a blot clot or atherosclerotic plaque that has moved through the arterial circulation from one position to another.

The resulting mechanism is the same regardless of cause or location. Oxygen deprivation to the tissues distal to the occlusion become ischaemic and die (necrosis). Atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for arterial embolism due to the release of blood clots from the fibrillating heart. Blood vessel injury and increased levels of platelets can also be a risk for arterial embolism.

symptoms vary with location, but pain, coolness to an extremity and a absent or diminished pulse are common in the case of an extremity embolism. Treatment is often surgical or involves the use of blood clot dissolving medications (for example streptokinase) delivered selectively to the site of the blockage.