Monday, 23 May 2011

Medical: Thrombosis VS Embolism VS Atherosclerosis

Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House
Image from milliontalks

Another piece of information that I have learnt while watching House M.D. are these two terms, embolism and thrombosis.
Example of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and dislodging of a embolus
Image from daviddarling

Thrombosis "
is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus; Greek: θρόμβος) inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system." [1] In simple words, a dry ball made of blood get stuck in a blood vessel so the blood cannot flow.
"When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss. Alternatively, even when a blood vessel is not injured, blood clots may form in the body if the proper conditions present themselves. If the clotting is too severe and the clot breaks free, the traveling clot is now known as an embolus.[1][2]." [1]

So, there is a medical condition caused by a travelling clot called embolism.

Image from blogspot

Embolism "is the event of lodging of an embolus ("any detached, itinerant intravascular mass (solid, liquid, or gaseous) as carried by circulation and capable of clogging arterial capillary beds at a site distant from its point of origin") into a narrow capillary vessel of an arterial bed which causes a blockage (vascular occlusion) in a distant part of the body." [2]

Image from

Now, do not mix up with Atherosclerosis ("also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease or ASVD), which is a condition in which an artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials such as cholesterol." [3]

Image from
The treatment to Atherosclerosis is through Angioplasty, "the technique of mechanically widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel, typically as a result of atherosclerosis. An empty and collapsed balloon on a guide wire, known as a balloon catheter, is passed into the narrowed locations and then inflated to a fixed size using water pressures some 75 to 500 times normal blood pressure (6 to 20 atmospheres). The balloon crushes the fatty deposits, opening up the blood vessel for improved flow, and the balloon is then deflated and withdrawn." [4]

If Angioplasty is performed in the heart's coronary arteries, it is generally called "Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)" or "coronary angioplasty." [4]
If similar technique is applied elsewhere, it is generally called "Stenting". [5]

However, thrombosis could happen during post-angioplasty and thus "Patients with stents are usually prescribed an anticoagulant, clopidogrel which is taken at the same time with acetylsalicylic acid. These medications are intended to prevent blood clots and they are usually taken for at least the first months after the procedure is performed. In most cases, patients are administrated this type of medication for 1 year. Also, patients who are doing dental work are advised to cancel it because there is a risk of endocarditis, an infection of the heart."

These medical terms are becoming more and more common in the newspapers, so we should all learn something about them so we can communicate with the doctors at the dining tables (or at hospital, touch wood!)