Thromboembolism refers to a condition where a blood clot formed in the blood vessel unplugs itself and flows in the blood stream.
Thromboembolism refers to a condition where a blood clot formed in the blood vessel unplugs itself and flows in the blood stream to block another blood vessel leading to obstruction of blood flow. Although clotting is a normal bodily function, if a clot occurs where it is not required, it may lead to serious problems.
The type of thromboembolism differs depending on the area in which the clot may appear. It can obstruct the blood flow in the veins, arteries, brain, gastrointestinal tract or kidneys.
Thromboembolism can be further classified as below:
A venous thromboembolism is a thrombus (blood clot) formed in a vein. The blood flow in the veins is slow when compared to arteries which can increase the likelihood of the blood clots forming in these vessels.
It can be categorized into three different types
A renal vein thrombosis is a thrombosis that occurs in the veins that drain blood away from the kidneys. These clots reduce the ability of the kidneys to clean and filter the blood.
Arterial thrombosis is much less common than venous thrombosis. It can have similar risks. Usually arterial thrombosis may lead to necrosis of the tissue.
A thromboembolism in the coronary artery can cause a heart attack. If blood supply to the brain is disrupted, the patient may suffer a stroke.
Signs and symptoms of venous thromboembolism include the following
If the condition is severe, it may lead to blister formation and shedding of the skin, leading to tissue necrosis.
Symptoms of a clot in an organ vary with the organ involved but may include:
The blood clots can occur due to injury to a vein, consequence of a surgery, use of certain medications and lack of movement of the limbs.
In the case of PE, the blood clot may block the blood vessels of the lungs. The affected portion of the lung may die due to loss of blood supply, the condition is called as pulmonary infraction, making it difficult to provide oxygen to the rest of the body.
Occasionally, the blood vessels can be blocked by substances other than blood like collagen, part of a tumour, air bubbles etc.
The common risk factors include
The diagnosis of thromboembolism includes the following tests which could be considered depending on the type:
D-dimer: The blood sample is tested for the presence of D-dimer which is a marker for the presence of blood clots.
Duplex Ultrasound: This is an imaging test in which the presence of clots is identified using ultrasound waves.
Pulse oximetry: In this test, a sensor attached on the end of the finger of the patient helps to measure the level of oxygen in the blood.
Arterial blood gas: The blood drawn from the artery is checked for oxygen levels present in it.
Chest X-ray: This test may not be useful in finding the presence of clots, but can help to rule out a clot.
Other diagnostic tests may include ELISA, pulmonary angiography, venography, echocardiography, helical computed tomography of pulmonary vessels etc.
Treatment of thromboembolism includes:
Blood thinners: These are anticoagulant drugs which prevent formation of new clots while the body works to break up the previous clots present. They include heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin, apixaban, edoxaban, rivaroxaban, and warfarin.
Clot-busting drugs: These are intravenous injections to dissolve the clots in the case of life-threatening situations. They include drugs belonging to the class of tissue plasminogen activators.
If the patient is at a risk of the condition, the following preventive measures may be considered to reduce the occurrence:
Other preventive measures include
Consideration during travel include