Heart & Blood Condition

Expert reports about Heart & Blood Condition



What is an embolism during pregnancy?

An embolism is an obstruction of a blood vessel by an embolus, something that has traveled through the bloodstream. In obstructing blood flow, an embolism can cause ischemia (inadequate blood flow and oxygen to tissue), which in turn can lead to infarction, tissue death. Embolic infarction has different names and effects, depending on where in the body it happens. The obstruction of pulmonary vessels from an embolus is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). The obstruction of coronary vasculature (blood vessels of the heart) has different names, depending on the extent of infarction. Whereas most vascular obstruction in the heart comes, not from emboli, but from blood clots forming at the site, embolism constitutes a high proportion of blood vessel obstruction in the brain, known as ischemic stroke. A stroke due to embolism is called either a cerebral embolism (CE), or an embolic stroke. Embolism also can occur in various other organs in the body, but when it comes to pregnancy and the weeks following delivery, the main embolism concerns are first PE and second CE. In pregnancy, PE is the more common type of embolism, because the main source of emboli in pregnant women is venous thrombosis, the formation of clots in deep veins. This is due to what’s called an increased hypercoagulability state (meaning that in pregnancy, you form clots more easily) and due to venous stasis, meaning that blood slows down and pools in certain veins, due to pressure of the growing womb on veins in the pelvis. Deep venous clots can produce emboli, which travel through the right side of the heart and to the lungs until they reach vessels too narrow to allow them to pass through - this causes a PE.


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