An embolus is an unanchored mass that travels through the blood vessels. This mass can consist of a variety of different materials, though blood clots are the most common. Eventually, the embolus reaches a blood vessel too narrow for it to travel through, and lodges there. This prevents blood from travelling through and prevents the area from receiving oxygenated blood and reoxygenation of the blood. This blockage is an embolism.


1. Emboli

There are several types of emboli, each with a unique cause and made up of different materials:

  • A thromboembolism is a portion of a blood clot that detaches from its original site and travels through the blood vessels.
  • A fat embolism occurs when fat tissue leaks into the bloodstream. This most often occurs following bone fractures.
  • An air embolism is usually the result of an issue with the lungs where inhaled air escapes into the blood vessels.
  • A gas embolism is a frequent concern for deep-sea divers because small bubbles form in the blood as they ascend to the surface. This is the cause of decompression sickness.
  • Pus or foreign objects such as bullet fragments can also form an embolus. However, this is incredibly rare.
types of embolisms HYWARDS / Getty Images


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