Thrombus vs Embolus – Difference Between Thrombus and Embolus

Thrombus vs Embolus – Difference Between Thrombus and Embolus

The difference between thrombus vs embolus is that a thrombus (or thrombi) is a blood clot formed out of red blood cells, whereas an embolus (or emboli) is anything that travels through a blood vessel and creates a blockage.

As the two are similar to one another, they often get confused and mistaken for being the same thing. Today, we are going to give you a very clear overview of what each of these biological obstructions is so that you can determine the difference between thrombus vs embolus for good. Ready to find out more? Let’s dive in.

Definition of Thrombus – So What Is Thrombus?

The definition of thrombus is “a blood clot that forms in a vein.”

You have probably heard about blood clots before as they are responsible for a wide array of medical issues arising. They can cause everything from minor swelling and discomfort to major heart attacks and strokes.

The difference between embolism vs thrombosis is minimal in terms of the result on the body. They can essentially lead to the same medical issues arising as one another, but how they occur in the first place is what differentiates them.

Thrombosis is a one-dimensional phenomenon in that it exclusively occurs through the formation of blood clots. There are numerous reasons why this can happen including the viscosity of a person’s blood, their diet, genetic predisposition, and their general state of cardiovascular health.

When we are comparing embolism vs thrombosis, we are dealing with direct blockages of the blood vessels on both accounts, but an embolism does not have to involve red blood cells or be related to a blood clot. This is ultimately what sets thrombosis vs embolism apart.

Here are some common examples of thrombosis.

  • Jugular vein thrombosis
  • Deep-vein thrombosis
  • Budd-Chiari syndrome
  • Arterial thrombosis
  • Portal-vein thrombosis

Every single one of these forms of thrombosis or conditions relating to thrombosis involves the blockage of blood vessels due to an excessive build-up of red blood cells (also referred to as clotting).

On balance, one of the major differences between thrombosis vs embolism is that even though similar medical issues can arise when either phenomenon occurs, an embolism can actually take place due to the introduction of a foreign body to the bloodstream.

Thrombosis only occurs innately, directly requiring red blood cell clots from the person’s own body to manifest. If you have ever found yourself asking what is thrombus while pondering over medical terms, you should now have a much better idea of how it compares to embolism.

Definition of Embolus – So What Is Embolus?

The definition of embolus is “an object that has been carried in the bloodstream and has created a blockage.”

Even though thrombus vs embolism sound similar and have an impact on the body that is certainly almost identical in most cases, embolism is actually very different from thrombosis for several reasons.

The difference between thrombus and embolus ultimately is that a thrombus exclusively forms out of red blood cells, whereas an embolus can form for several reasons. An embolism is a blockage that occurs when a small fragment reaches a narrow passage within a blood vessel that it cannot pass through.

This blockage then stops the flow of blood, leading to similar medical issues arising as a blood clot or thrombosis. Commonly, embolisms are actually small blood clot fragments, which is why so many people confuse thrombus vs embolism with one another.

However, embolisms can also be created as a result of these factors.

  • Excess fatty deposits
  • Excess oxygen deposits
  • Excess amniotic fluid deposits
  • The introduction of any foreign body into the bloodstream

We can easily see a major difference between thrombus and embolus here because a thrombus cannot consist of anything other than red blood cells in order to be classified as a thrombus. On balance, an embolus can consist of any one of several foreign or innate objects.

Though we could never measure the difference between embolus and thrombus by their impact on the human body because the effects are often too similar, we can certainly draw a contrast due to the unique ways in which they both form.

Hopefully now, the embolism vs thrombus debate is making a little more sense to you. In order to leave absolutely no doubt that these two medical phenomena are different, we are going to provide you with a quick reference table in the next section that very clearly separates the two terms.

What Is the Main Difference Between Embolus and Thrombus?

To visually separate the difference between embolus and thrombus in a clear and concise manner, we are going to show you a table that draws on their main variances from one another.

You should come back to this table any time that you require a quick refresh on this subject as it will sum them both up in a matter of seconds.

Occurs inBlood vesselsBlood vessels
Made out ofClotted red blood cellsExcess fatty deposits, fragments of blood clots, pockets of oxygen, pockets of amniotic fluid, any foreign body within the bloodstream
EffectExpands in size and creates blockages within the blood vesselTravels through the blood vessel until it reaches a narrow passage and cannot get through, thus creating a blockage
MassWhen thrombosis occurs, the mass (or clot) is static and does not move.When embolism occurs, the mass is free floating and moves within the bloodstream until it encounters a restriction.
Common symptomsThere is often pain in the legs and either cold or warm skin in the affected area.Dizziness, accelerated heart rate, skin discoloration, nausea, and heart palpitations are common symptoms.

If you have ever asked the question what is embolus, then this embolism vs thrombus table should definitely have made their differences completely clear once and for all.

Embolus vs Thrombus: FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about embolus vs thrombus.

Q: Are embolus and thrombus the same?

A: Not quite, no. The main difference between embolus vs thrombus is that an embolism can take place when any object passes through the bloodstream and creates a blockage, whereas thrombosis only occurs due to the clotting of red blood cell platelets.

Q: Do embolism and thrombosis have the same effects on the body?

A: The effects and symptoms of embolism and thrombosis are very similar. They will often both induce dizziness and heart palpitations, though dizziness is more commonly a symptom of embolism whereas an erratic heart rate is more commonly a symptom of thrombosis.

Embolisms usually lead to skin discoloration too, whereas thrombosis may not. On balance, thrombosis may result in the skin becoming excessively hot or cold whereas an embolism may not.

Q: What are thrombi and emboli made out of?

A: The difference between thrombotic vs embolic blockages is that thrombotic blockages are always made out of clotted red blood cell platelets, while embolic blockages can be made out of any object within the bloodstream including fatty tissue, amniotic fluid, fragments of blood clots, and excess oxygen pockets.

So What Is the Difference Between Embolus and Thrombus? – Conclusion

In summary, the difference between emboli vs thrombi may not be enormous, but their contrast lies in the way that they are both created. It is the formation process that serves as the crucial differentiator between the two.

To easily summarize the contrast between an embolic vs thrombotic blockage, just remember that embolic blockages travel freely within the bloodstream and can be made out of any object, whereas thrombotic blockages are static and are always created out of red blood cell platelets.

The separate definitions along with the table that we provided earlier should finally have made this comparison much easier to understand.