August 24, 2016

Blood Clots

What types of conditions are caused by blood clots (AFib, atrial thrombosis, and others)?

Arterial thrombus

An arterial thrombus stops the blood supply to the tissues beyond the blockage, depriving cells of oxygen and nutrients. This quickly leads to tissue death. Arterial thrombus is the mechanism that causes:

  • heart attack (when it occurs in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart)
  • stroke (when it occurs in arteries within the brain),
  • peripheral vascular disease (occurring in the arteries of the legs), or
  • ischemic bowel or mesenteric ischemia (when it occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the intestine)

Atrial fibrillation (AFib, AF)

In atrial fibrillation (AFib, AF), small clots may form along the walls of the atrium or the upper chambers of the heart. Should one of these clots break off, it may embolize, or travel in the bloodstream to the brain, blocking an artery and causing a stroke. Other arteries also may be involved when blood clots caused by the presence of AFib lodge and stop blood flow (embolize), including those that supply blood to the bowel. This can cause bowel ischemia and tissue death (potential necrosis) of the intestine. Clots also can affect blood supply to the extremities (arms, fingers and toes).

Other types of blood clots

Blood should clot anytime it becomes stagnant. This also means that clots will form when blood leaks out of blood vessels.

Examples include some of the following:

  • With bleeding peptic ulcers, patients may vomit liquid blood mixed with clot.
  • Patients with rectal bleeding may also have clot mixed with the bloody stool if there has been time for the clot to form.
  • Sometimes patients with urinary tract or bladder infections develop associated bleeding in their urine, and small clots can form. On occasion these clots may be so big that they cannot be passed and block the urethra (the tube that empties the bladder), preventing urination and causing urinary retention.
  • Vaginal bleeding is a normal event for most women in the reproductive years and occasionally, blood can pool in the vagina and form clots before being expelled. If clots form in the uterus, they may cause significant pain and pressure as they pass through the cervix while being expelled. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 4/27/2016
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