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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 77-87

Arterial embolism

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA
2 Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, Grant Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Correspondence Address:
Michael R Lyaker
Department of Anesthesiology, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Doan Hall, Columbus, Ohio
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2229-5151.109429

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Surgical and intensive care patients are at a heightened risk for arterial embolization due to pre-existing conditions such as age, hypercoagulability, cardiac abnormalities and atherosclerotic disease. Most arterial emboli are clots that originate in the heart and travel to distant vascular beds where they cause arterial occlusion, ischemia, and potentially infarction.Other emboli form on the surface of eroded arterial plaque or within its lipid core. Thromboemboli are large clots that dislodge from the surface of athesclerotic lesions and occlude distal arteries causing immediate ischemia. Atheroemboli, which originate from fracturing the lipid core tend to cause a process of organ dysfunction and systemic inflammation, termed cholesterol embolization syndrome. The presentation of arterial emboli depends on the arterial bed that is affected. The most common manifestations are strokes and acute lower limb ischemia. Less frequently, emboli target the upper extremities, mesenteric or renal arteries. Treatment involves rapid diagnosis, which may be aided by precise imaging studies and restoration of blood flow. The type of emboli, duration of presentation, and organ system affected determines the treatment course. Long-term therapy includes supportive medical care, identification of the source of embolism and prevention of additional emboli. Patients who experienced arterial embolism as a result of clots formed in the heart should be anticoagulated. Arterial emboli from atherosclerotic disease of the aorta or other large arteries should prompt treatment to reduce the risk for atherosclerotic progression, such as anti-platelet therapy and the use of statin drugs. The use of anticoagulation and surgical intervention to reduce the risk of arterial embolization from atherosclerotic lesions is still being studied.

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