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Please add the profiles for those who have died as a result of ANY type of Embolism.

Project Tags: embolism, cause of death, thrombus, vascular occlusion, fat embolism, gas embolism, pulmonary embolism, PE, arterial embolism, DVT, deep vein thrombosis, clot, thromboembolism, brain embolism, retinal embolism, septic embolism,

Definition of Embolism: The obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance or a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream, lodging in a blood vessel, plugging the vessel.

  • The cells that normally get their blood supply via this passage are starved of oxygen (ischemia) and die.
  • Foreign substances that can cause embolisms include air bubbles (gas embolism), amniotic fluid, blood clot (thrombus), globules of fat (fat embolism), clumps of bacteria, chemicals (such as talc), and drugs (mainly illegal ones).
  • Such a blockage (a vascular occlusion) may affect a part of the body distant to the origin of the embolus, as it is capable of clogging the capillary beds and can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart and any other area of the body that may result in more severe complications.
  • Blood clots are the most common causes of embolisms.
  • An embolism is usually a pathological event, i.e., accompanying 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.

Types of embolism:

  • 1) Pulmonary embolism:
    • Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs (the main blood vessel from the heart to the lung) or one of its branches, plugging that vessel within the lung. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or, rarely, other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis or DVT).
    • Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs will help protect you against pulmonary embolism.
    • Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have underlying lung or heart disease.
    • Many emboli are broken down by the body and go away by themselves; however, serious pulmonary embolism may cause death.
  • 2) Brain embolism:
    • A blood clot that travels to the brain results in an ischemic stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack).
    • The embolus disrupts the blood supply in the brain depriving it of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation in the brain will cause it to die within two minutes. Oxygen deprivation will result in brain damage which leads to specific impairment depending on the part of the brain that is affected by embolus. Motor sensory is mostly affected and memory loss may also happen.
  • 3) Retinal embolism:
    • Small clots that wouldn’t block a major artery can block the smaller blood vessels feeding the retina at the back of the eye. This usually results in sudden blindness in one eye.
    • The occlusion usually causes blindness on one eye. Embolus can also travel to distant artery of the retina and may result to loss of vision in a section of visual field. The condition of retinal embolism is an emergency condition as retinal occlusion may lead to permanent blindness if not give immediate medical attention.
  • 4) Septic embolism:
    • This occurs when bacterial particles created by infection in the body reach the bloodstream and block blood vessels.
    • The bacterial infected embolus will form pus that is typically dangerous when it breaks away from its original site. The condition of septic embolism is potentially fatal.
    • Fusobacterium necrophorum is one of the most common microbes that can spread septic embolus. This bacterium is common in the oral cavity.
    • Septic embolus is most commonly harbored from an extrapulmonary location that has been infected for a period of time.
  • 5) Amniotic embolism:
    • In pregnancy, the womb is filled with amniotic fluid, which protects the fetus. Amniotic fluid can embolize and reach the mother's lungs, causing pulmonary amniotic embolism.
    • It is a rare obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid or other debris enters the maternal circulation that can lead to cardiorespiratory collapse.
  • 6) Air embolism:
    • Air embolism may be potentially fatal especially when large amount of gas or air blocks the blood flow in the vasculature. It occurs when the air enters the systemic venous circulation and moves to the right ventricle or pulmonary circulation.
    • Air embolism is the occurrence of gas bubbles in the bloodstream and is incidental during surgical procedures. The condition is fatal when a large bubble of gas enters the heart blocking the ventricle.
    • It may also occur during rapid decompression such as in deep sea diving and any other decompressing accidents.
  • 7) Fat embolism:
    • This type of embolism occurs when droplets of fat tissue or bone marrow passes the bloodstream as a result of either mechanical obstruction or biochemical injury.
    • The minute embolus can lead to pulmonary or cerebral microvasculature occlusion.
    • Fat embolism is mostly caused by physical injury such as long bone fracture, soft tissue trauma and burns. Mechanical obstruction defined in fat metabolism refers to result of physical obstruction of the pulmonary and systemic vasculature with fat embolus. Biochemical injury is due to circulating fatty acids that are directly toxic to pneumocytes and capillary endothelium in the lungs that can lead to interstitial hemorrhage, edema and chemical pneumonitis.


  • Most embolisms happen to people who have risk factors for blood clot formation, such as smoking and heart disease. Other risk factors for other types of emboli include high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty plaque in the blood vessels), and high cholesterol.
  • Arterial emboli are usually a complication of heart disease where blood clots form in the heart's chambers. Gas emboli are caused by rapid changes in environmental pressure that could happen when flying or scuba diving. A pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel through the blood stream to the lungs and block a pulmonary artery. More than 90% of the cases of pulmonary embolism are a complication of deep vein thrombosis, which typically occurs in patients who have had orthopedic surgery and patients with cancer or other chronic illnesses like congestive heart failure.
  • Risk factors for arterial and pulmonary emboli include: prolonged bed rest, surgery, childbirth, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, cancer, obesity, a broken hip or leg, oral contraceptives, sickle cell anemia, chest trauma, certain congenital heart defects, and old age. Risk factors for gas emboli include: scuba diving, amateur plane flight, exercise, injury, obesity, dehydration, excessive alcohol, colds, and medications such as narcotics and antihistamines.


  • The treatment for thromboembolism (blood clot embolism) involves anticoagulant or thrombolytic medications.


Venous Thromboembolism (blood clots):

  • The precise number of people affected by DVT/PE is unknown, although as many as 900,000 people could be affected (1 to 2 per 1,000) each year in the United States.
  • Estimates suggest that 60,000-100,000 Americans die of DVT/PE (also called venous thromboembolism).
  • 10 to 30% of people will die within one month of diagnosis.
  • Sudden death is the first symptom in about one-quarter (25%) of people who have a PE.
  • Among people who have had a DVT, one-half will have long-term complications (post-thrombotic syndrome) such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and scaling in the affected limb.
  • One-third (about 33%) of people with DVT/PE will have a recurrence within 10 years.
  • Approximately 5 to 8% of the U.S. population has one of several genetic risk factors, also known as inherited thrombophilias in which a genetic defect can be identified that increases the risk for thrombosis.

Notables who died of a Pulmonary Embolism:

  1. Ranker - Famous People Who Died of Pulmonary Embolism 70 listed
  2. Wikipedia - Deaths from pulmonary embolism 119 listed

Sources & Additional Reading:

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