An embolism is the lodging of an embolus, a blockage-causing piece of material, inside a blood vessel. The embolus may be a blood clot (thrombus), a fat globule (fat embolism), a bubble of air or other gas (gas embolism), amniotic fluid (amniotic fluid embolism), or foreign material. An embolism can cause partial or total blockage of blood flow in the affected vessel. Such a blockage (vascular occlusion) may affect a part of the body distant from the origin of the embolus. An embolism in which the embolus is a piece of thrombus is called a thromboembolism.
|Micrograph of embolic material in the artery of a kidney. The kidney was surgically removed because of cancer. H&E stain.|
An embolism is usually a pathological event, caused by illness or injury. Sometimes it is created intentionally for a therapeutic reason, such as to stop bleeding or to kill a cancerous tumor by stopping its blood supply. Such therapy is called embolization.