Thrombosis vs Embolism: Difference and Comparison

An integral job of the blood vessels is to supply blood to the different parts of the human body. Various kinds of vessels help perform this activity.


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Arteries and veins are two of the most common vessels that transfer blood towards and beginning from the heart. The blood comprises plasma, platelets, and white and red blood cells.

In a normal scenario, it is easy for blood to flow via the arteries and veins. But in certain cases, if there is any injury in the intima of the blood vessel, certain difficult mechanisms start taking place inside the bloodstream.

This is done to create a clot. A clot is produced due to the opening of thrombocytes in blood. 

A blood clot needs fibrin to be created.

Fibrin forms the net on the clot. The clot formation process in a blood vessel is either known as Thrombosis or Embolism.

Though these two words appear the same, they are not. Both of these are, in actuality, quite different from each other.

Key Takeaways

  1. Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing blood flow.
  2. Embolism is the obstruction of a blood vessel by an embolus, a blood clot, an air bubble, or a fat deposit that travels from another part of the body.
  3. While thrombosis occurs locally, an embolism can occur anywhere in the body.

Thrombosis vs Embolism

Thrombosis is caused by immobility, surgery, cancer, hormonal imbalances, and inherited blood disorders. Embolism is the sudden blood vessel obstruction by a detached blood clot or other material that travels through the bloodstream. Risk factors include the same factors as thrombosis.

Thrombosis vs Embolism

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonThrombosisEmbolism 
Meaning Thrombosis is when a blood clot originates in a blood vessel, leading to a blockage in blood flow.  Embolism is when a blood clot (either full or part of it) is separated from its place, leading to occlusion at another body part.
FormationIn Thrombosis, a blood clot is formed in a vein.In Embolism, a clot moves through the blood vessels before reaching a smaller vessel. 
Blood flowIn Thrombosis, the blood flow is reduced.In Embolism, the blood flow is completely shut off.
Symptoms The symptoms of Thrombosis are warm or cold skin in the area of pain and cramps in the leg. The symptoms of Embolism are rapid heartbeat, discoloured skin and dizziness. 
SizeA Thrombosis is large.An Embolism is smaller as it is a piece of the Thrombosis. 
CausesThrombosis is caused due to blood platelets, fibrin and other such cellular elements. An Embolism is caused due to Thrombosis mostly. In certain cases, it may be caused due to air infections.
Mass In Thrombosis, the mass is stationary. In Embolism, the mass is freely floating.

What is Thrombosis?

Thrombosis refers to forming blood clots in areas where blood clots are not medically needed. If a body is injured in any way, the blood clots at the injury so that there isn’t much blood loss and the injured area can be healed faster.

This is done to protect the affected area. However, in certain cases, blood clots are formed in blood vessels without need.

This is either because the speed of the blood flow changes or the core content of blood changes. This is what Thrombosis is all about.

Thrombosis affects the flow of the blood in the body. Because of the clots, the blood vessels can be half or fully blocked, preventing blood circulation. 

Thrombosis is more common among people who cannot move freely. People who have a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to Thrombosis.

Thrombosis is often called the “economy class syndrome”.

This is because the growth of deep vein thrombosis is often associated with air travel. Other factors like drinking, smoking or obesity also determine Thrombosis in the human body. 


What is Embolism?

Embolism refers to a blood vessel that has been blocked. Blood clots block blood vessels partially or completely, leading to Embolism.

Other causes of Embolism include gas bubbles, air bubbles or the entrance of any foreign substances into the bloodstream. In certain rare cases, embolisms are created artificially to reduce blood flow to a cancerous tumour.

The symptoms of Embolism depend on the area of the blockage. Clots can block vessels, which causes abnormal circulation of the blood in the body.

When Embolism blocks veins, blood starts to build up behind the blockage leading to swelling.


Main Differences Between Thrombosis and Embolism

  1. In Thrombosis, a blood clot originates in a blood vessel, which blocks the blood flow. On the other hand, in Embolism, either the entire blood clot or a part of the blood clot is separated from its actual place, leading to occlusion at another body part. 
  2. Thrombosis lasts for several days or hours, while on the other hand while Embolism lasts for several minutes.
  3. The symptoms of Thrombosis are less severe and less dramatic, while on the other hand, the symptoms of Embolism are more severe and more dramatic.
  4. In Thrombosis, the blood flow reduces; on the other hand, in Embolism, the blood flow completely stops.
  5. A Thrombosis is bigger, whereas, on the other hand, an Embolism is smaller in size.
  6. In Thrombosis, a blood clot develops inside the circulatory system, while on the other hand, in Embolism, a blood clot travels through the blood vessels.
Difference Between Thrombosis and Embolism
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