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Blood clots

Clot; Emboli; Thrombi; Thromboembolus; Hypercoagulable state

Blood clots are clumps that occur when blood hardens from a liquid to a solid.

  • A blood clot that forms inside one of your veins or arteries is called a thrombus. A thrombus may also form in your heart.
  • A thrombus that breaks loose and travels from one location in the body to another is called an embolus.

A thrombus or embolus can partly or completely block the flow of blood in a blood vessel.

  • A blockage in an artery may prevent oxygen from reaching the tissues in that area. This is called ischemia. If ischemia is not treated promptly, it can lead to tissue damage or death.
  • A blockage in the vein will often cause fluid buildup and swelling.

Causes

Situations in which a blood clot is more likely to form in veins include:

  • Being on long-term bed rest
  • Sitting for long periods, such as in a plane or car
  • During and after pregnancy
  • Taking birth control pills or estrogen hormones (especially in women who smoke)
  • Long-term use of an intravenous catheter
  • After surgery

Blood clots are also more likely to form after an injury. People with cancer, obesity, and liver or kidney disease are also prone to blood clots.

Smoking also increases the risk of forming blood clots.

Conditions that are passed down through families (inherited) may make you more likely to form abnormal blood clots. Inherited conditions that affect clotting are:

  • Factor V Leiden thrombophilia
  • Prothrombin G20210A mutation

Other rare conditions, such as protein C, protein S, and antithrombin III deficiencies.

A blood clot may block an artery or vein in the heart, affecting the:

References

Anderson JA, Hogg KE, Weitz JI. Hypercoagulable states. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 140.

Schafer AI. Thrombotic disorders: hypercoagulable states. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 176.

  • Thrombus

    Thrombus - illustration

    A thrombus is a blood clot that forms in a vessel and remains there. An embolism is a clot that travels from the site where it formed to another location in the body. Thrombi or emboli can lodge in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood in that location depriving tissues of normal blood flow and oxygen. This can result in damage, destruction (infarction), or even death of the tissues (necrosis) in that area.

    Thrombus

    illustration

  • Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral

    Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral - illustration

    This picture shows a red and swollen thigh and leg caused by a blood clot (thrombus) in the deep veins in the groin (iliofemoral veins) which prevents normal return of blood from the leg to the heart.

    Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral

    illustration

    • Thrombus

      Thrombus - illustration

      A thrombus is a blood clot that forms in a vessel and remains there. An embolism is a clot that travels from the site where it formed to another location in the body. Thrombi or emboli can lodge in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood in that location depriving tissues of normal blood flow and oxygen. This can result in damage, destruction (infarction), or even death of the tissues (necrosis) in that area.

      Thrombus

      illustration

    • Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral

      Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral - illustration

      This picture shows a red and swollen thigh and leg caused by a blood clot (thrombus) in the deep veins in the groin (iliofemoral veins) which prevents normal return of blood from the leg to the heart.

      Deep venous thrombosis, ileofemoral

      illustration

    Self Care

     

    Tests for Blood clots

     
     

    Review Date: 5/14/2018

    Reviewed By: Preeti Sudheendra, MD, oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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