An embolic stroke happens when an embolus (a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body) breaks off and travels to the brain through the bloodstream. Ultimately, the blood clot lodges itself in one of the blood vessels of the brain causing a blockage and eventually, a stop in the blood flow. This is in contrary to a thrombotic stroke where the thrombus (blood clot) is formed in the blood vessel of the brain. Both embolic stroke and thrombotic stroke are types of ischemic stroke. Embolic stroke is also called cerebral embolism.
There are certain factors that can predispose an individual to an embolic stroke, or any kind of stroke. These risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of a stroke occurring in one’s lifetime, which include hypertension or high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking and an unhealthy lifestyle and diet
Causes of Embolic Stroke
The embolus causing embolic stroke usually comes from the heart, but it may also come from the upper chest and neck. Once it travels to the brain and enters a small blood vessel that would not allow it to pass through, it forms a blockage, disabling blood to flow to the brain. The following can form an embolus in the body:
- Plaque build up from an arterial wall
- Air bubbles
- Fat globules
- Abnormal heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) – ineffective beating of the upper chambers of the heart resulting to pooling and clotting of blood (accounts for 15% of embolic strokes)
Signs and Symptoms of Embolic Stroke
Signs and symptoms of embolic stroke vary in persons, depending on the brain area that is affected by the blockage. The most commonly affected brain areas include those that control speech, sight, movement and balance and coordination. Signs and symptoms of embolic stroke are similar to any kind of ischemic stroke, which include:
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech, e.g. slurring
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden weakness on one side of the body (face, arm or leg)
- Sudden, intense numbness in any part of the body
- Loss of coordination in the arms and hands
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking
- Confusion or dizziness
First Aid Management for Embolic Stroke
It will not be immediately determined if an individual is experiencing an embolic stroke but ALL kinds of stroke are considered a medical emergency that require immediate medical help. Learn how to properly administer first aid in cases of emergency by taking First Aid Classes. How to administer first aid to a victim of embolic stroke:
- Immediately call for paramedics.
- Reassure the patient and do not leave the patient alone at all times.
- If the patient is conscious, assist the patient in a lying position with the head and shoulders slightly elevated.
- If the patient is unconscious but breathing, help the patient to their left side in a supported position.
- If necessary, perform CPR.
An embolic stroke is a kind of stroke that occurs when an embolus (blood clot) forms elsewhere in the body, breaks off and lodges itself to the arteries of the brain causing a blockage.