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Embolus vs. Thrombus — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 25, 2023
An "Embolus" is a traveling blood clot, air bubble, or other particle in the bloodstream, while a "Thrombus" is a stationary blood clot that forms in a vessel.
Embolus vs. Thrombus — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Embolus and Thrombus


Key Differences

An "Embolus" refers to an abnormal particle (like a blood clot, air bubble, or fat deposit) that travels through the bloodstream. This particle can move from its original location and may eventually cause a blockage in smaller vessels. In contrast, a "Thrombus" specifically refers to a blood clot that forms and remains in its original location within a blood vessel. This distinction is vital because the health implications and treatments differ based on whether one is dealing with an embolus or thrombus.
One of the most recognized dangers of an "Embolus" is its potential to cause an embolism, which happens when the traveling particle blocks a blood vessel. This can lead to life-threatening situations like pulmonary embolism if the blockage occurs in the lungs. On the other hand, "Thrombus" can lead to conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) where the clot remains fixed in its original position, typically in the deep veins of the leg.
While both terms are closely related to vascular health, "Embolus" emphasizes the movement or travel of the obstruction, whereas "Thrombus" emphasizes the formation and stationary nature of the clot. Both situations can lead to severe health problems. For example, if a "Thrombus" detaches, it becomes an "Embolus" and can travel to other parts of the body.
In medical contexts, understanding the distinction between "Embolus" and "Thrombus" is crucial. When diagnosing or treating vascular conditions, physicians must ascertain whether they are addressing a stationary clot or one that might be on the move. While both can result from similar underlying issues like blood disorders or vessel injury, their management can be notably different.

Comparison Chart


A traveling particle in the bloodstream.
A stationary blood clot in a vessel.

Potential Complication

Can cause an embolism by blocking vessels.
Can cause conditions like DVT.


Characterized by its ability to move through the bloodstream.
Remains stationary in its original location.


Can be a detached thrombus or other particles.
Forms due to blood coagulation within a vessel.

Treatment Implication

Requires interventions to prevent blockages in vital organs.
Might need anticoagulant therapies or monitoring.

Compare with Definitions


Any detached, traveling intravascular mass carried by circulation.
An air bubble can act as an embolus and block blood flow.


A blood clot formed within a vascular system.
The ultrasound revealed a thrombus in the deep veins of the leg.


A particle that can cause an obstruction in microcirculation.
The sudden onset of chest pain was due to a fat embolus.


A stationary clot attached to a vessel wall.
The thrombus was adhered tightly to the arterial wall.


A traveling blood clot in the bloodstream.
The patient had an embolus that originated from the leg veins.


A coagulated mass resulting from factors like vessel injury.
After the trauma, a thrombus developed in the injured vessel.


A foreign substance in circulation causing potential blockages.
An embolus formed by tumor cells can also lead to vessel obstruction.


A solid mass of platelets and proteins within blood vessels.
The formation of a thrombus can lead to compromised blood flow.


A mobile blockage in vascular systems.
The embolus moved and caused a blockage in the pulmonary artery.


An aggregation of blood factors causing vessel blockage.
Blood thinners are used to prevent thrombus formation.


An embolus (; plural emboli; from the Greek ἔμβολος "wedge", "plug") is an unattached mass that travels through the bloodstream and is capable of creating blockages. When an embolus occludes a blood vessel, it is called an embolism or embolic event.


A thrombus, colloquially called a blood clot, is the final product of the blood coagulation step in hemostasis. There are two components to a thrombus: aggregated platelets and red blood cells that form a plug, and a mesh of cross-linked fibrin protein.


A mass, such as an air bubble, a detached blood clot, or a foreign body, that travels through the bloodstream and lodges so as to obstruct or occlude a blood vessel.


A fibrinous clot formed in a blood vessel or chamber of the heart.


(pathology) An obstruction causing an embolism: a blood clot, air bubble or other matter carried by the bloodstream and causing a blockage or occlusion of a blood vessel.


A blood clot formed from platelets and other elements that forms in a blood vessel in a living organism, and causes thrombosis or obstruction of the vessel at its point of formation or travel to other areas of the body.


(zoology) The structure on the end of the palp of male arachnids which contains the opening to the ejaculatory duct.


A clot of blood formed of a passage of a vessel and remaining at the site of coagulation.


Something inserted, as a wedge; the piston or sucker of a pump or syringe.


A blood clot formed within a blood vessel and remaining attached to its place of origin


A plug of some substance lodged in a blood vessel, being brought thither by the blood current. It consists most frequently of a clot of fibrin, a detached shred of a morbid growth, a globule of fat, or a microscopic organism.


An abnormal particle (e.g. an air bubble or part of a clot) circulating in the blood

Common Curiosities

What is an Embolus made of?

An embolus can be a blood clot, air bubble, fat deposit, or other particles.

Can a Thrombus become an Embolus?

Yes, if a thrombus detaches, it becomes an embolus and can travel in the bloodstream.

Is an Embolus always dangerous?

It can be, especially if it blocks vital blood vessels leading to organs like the heart or lungs.

What conditions can an Embolus cause?

It can cause conditions like pulmonary embolism, stroke, etc., by blocking blood vessels.

How is a Thrombus different from a clot?

A thrombus is a type of clot that remains stationary in a blood vessel.

Are all Emboli made of blood clots?

No, while many are, emboli can also consist of air, fat, or other particles.

How is a Thrombus treated?

Treatment can include anticoagulants, thrombolytics, or surgical removal.

Where does a Thrombus commonly form?

It often forms in the deep veins of the leg, leading to conditions like DVT.

What are the risk factors for Thrombus formation?

Immobility, surgery, trauma, certain diseases, and genetic factors.

What tests diagnose an Embolus?

Imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds can help detect emboli.

Can Emboli be prevented?

Yes, with measures like anticoagulant medications and compression stockings.

How fast can an Embolus travel?

It varies based on size and location, but some can reach vital organs quickly.

Can both conditions be asymptomatic?

Yes, sometimes neither presents noticeable symptoms until a severe complication arises.

What's the primary concern with a Thrombus in the leg?

It can detach, travel to the lungs, and cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.

What symptoms might a Thrombus cause?

Swelling, pain, warmth, and redness in the affected area.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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