An embolus is a blood clot, fat, air, or other material that is carried through the blood stream. If the embolus is stuck in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow, it can be a life threatening emergency.
A venous embolus can come from any vein in the body, but often starts as a blood clot (thrombus) in a blood vessel in the legs, called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. An embolus that starts in a vein of the legs or arms is more likely to get stuck in the pulmonary artery (the blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen). This is called a pulmonary embolus.
An arterial embolus usually starts in the heart or large arteries, such as the carotid artery in the neck. An arterial embolus is more likely to travel to the brain and cause a stroke. An arterial embolus may also travel to the arms or legs and get stuck in smaller blood vessels, causing tissue to die from a lack of blood supply.
An embolus is usually treated with medicine to dissolve it. If medicine doesnâ€™t work, you may need surgery to remove the embolus, called a catheter embolectomy.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
Ask your provider if you should take aspirin. Aspirin may help prevent blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Relax and widen blood vessels and allow blood to flow through them easier
Help prevent blood clots
Control cholesterol levels
To care for your catheter insertion site:
Keep the area clean.
If you are told to change your dressing on your incision, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.
Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes
Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes.
Get plenty of rest while youâ€™re recovering. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
Exercise as your provider recommends.
Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen poor blood circulation.
You will probably need to make changes in some of the foods you eat. Ask your provider about the benefits of talking to a dietician to learn what you need in a healthy diet.
Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
Lose weight if you need to and keep a healthy weight.
Find ways to make your life less stressful.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.
Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:
Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach
Weakness, numbness, tingling or pain in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
Severe bleeding or bleeding that does not stop
Bluish color and coldness in your arm or leg
Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats
Warmth, redness, swelling or pain in either arm or leg, but especially in area where you had the surgery
Shortness of breath
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Cuts that wonâ€™t stop bleeding
Blood in your bowel movements
Ask your healthcare provider about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-07-30 Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.