Blood Clot vs Embolism: Difference and Comparison

Blood remains in a liquid state in the body but can form clots. It is a crucial feature that can terminate unnecessary blood loss, but if the clot forms in a healthy blood vessel, then it can lead to a fatal medical condition.

Key Takeaways

  1. A blood clot is a clump of blood that forms in a blood vessel and can lead to blockages in circulation.
  2. Embolism is when a blood clot or other foreign material travels through the bloodstream and gets lodged in a smaller blood vessel, causing an obstruction.
  3. While both conditions are related to blood flow, embolism is a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Blood clot vs Embolism

A blood clot (also known as Thrombus) develops in a blood vessel which further results in a reduction in blood flow through the vessel. Whereas, in embolism, embolus (a piece of blood clot) or other bodily or foreign substance becomes lodged in a blood vessel which further obstructs blood flow.

Blood clot vs Embolism

A blood clot is also called thrombosis. It is mainly caused due to injury, hypercoagulability, abnormal blood flow, or due to genetic error in the clotting mechanism of the body.

While embolism is caused due to tear of the muscle, atherosclerosis, or even a sedentary lifestyle, embolism can form at various sites in the body, and the treatment varies according to the severity and the site.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBlood ClotEmbolism
CauseCause Due to injury to endothelial cells, abnormal blood flow, immobility, blood sugar, drugs, malignancy, high cholesterol, hypercoagulability or genetic errors Due to muscle tears, bone fractures, sedentary lifestyle, atherosclerosis, mitral stenosis, atrial fibrillation, or from treatments like chemotherapy
TypesVenous thrombosis and arterial thrombosis Pulmonary embolism, arterial embolism, air embolism, fat embolism, gas embolism, amniotic fluid embolism
SymptomsShortness of breath, chest pain or angina, reduced blood flow to limbs and decreased strength and temperature of the limb (arm or leg), pain, ache or swelling in the calf and the skin of the leg may turn red and warm Chest pain or pressure, palpitations, hemoptysis, sweating, fainting, dizziness or difficulty in breathing or tachypnea, headache, pain in the lungs, muscle weakness or numbness
DiagnosisDuplex ultrasonography, D-dimer blood test, venography, MRI scan is used to detect blood clot Blood tests, chest X-ray, ultrasound, CT pulmonary angiography, V/Q scan, and MRI are some of the tests to detect embolism
TreatmentHeparin and anticoagulants are the medications prescribed and use of devices like compression stockings Medications like anticoagulants, thrombin inhibitors, antiplatelet, thrombolytics, and other sedatives and painkillers to provide ease and control the growth

What is Blood Clot?

Blood clots are a typical response towards a wound and help in the healing and recovery process. But blood clot, commonly known as thrombosis, is the formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel.

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There can be several causes of a blood clot, while the three major causes include injury to an endothelial cell, hypercoagulability or thrombophilia, and abnormal or uncontrollable blood flow.

Patients with arterial thrombosis experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or angina, which can reduce blood flow to limbs and decrease the strength and temperature of the limb (arm or leg).

Certain precautions can keep blood clots at bay, like regular exercise for individuals with a sedentary lifestyle and healthy diet. Heparin and anticoagulants are beneficial in the treatment of blood clots or thrombosis.

blood clot

What is Embolism?

Embolism, also known as thromboembolism, is a blood clot that is mobile or floating. It is a broken clot called an embolus from some other location in the body and travels in the bloodstream.

Embolism can be caused by several reasons, but the main reason is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Other reasons could be anomalies in vena cava, diabetes, atherosclerosis, atrial fibrillation, endocarditis, and mitral stenosis.

Symptoms like chest pain, palpitations, hemoptysis, sweating, fainting, dizziness, difficulty in breathing or tachypnea can be of a clot in the coronary vessels.

Embolism can lead to serious complications like hypoxia, organ failure, stroke, amputation, myocardial infarction (heart attack), or sudden death.


Main Differences Between Blood Clot and Embolism

  1. The symptoms of a blood clot include shortness of breath, chest pain, reduced blood flow to limbs and decreased strength, and pain in the calf, while the symptoms of embolism include palpitations, hemoptysis, sweating, difficulty in breathing, and headache.
  2. The tests and scans to detect thrombosis include duplex ultrasonography, D-dimer blood test, venography, and MRI scan used to detect blood clots, while those to detect embolism are blood tests, chest X-ray, ultrasound, CT pulmonary angiography, V/Q scans.
Difference Between Blood Clot and Embolism
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Last Updated : 14 August, 2023

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