Thrombotic Vs. Embolic Stroke


A stroke is a medical event in which decreased blood flow to the brain leads to a loss of certain functions. There are 2 types of stroke: thrombotic and embolic. A thrombotic stroke occurs when a thrombus, or blood clot, blocks the flow of blood to the brain. An embolic stroke is when an artery is blocked by an embolus, which is material from another part of the body.

Types of Thrombotic Stroke

There are two types of thrombotic stroke. The first type is large vessel disease, in which a thrombus forms on a major artery, such as the internal carotids, vertebral arteries, and the circle of Willis. Small vessel disease involves a thrombus that forms on a smaller artery inside the brain, such as small branches of the circle of Willis and the middle cerebral artery.

Risk Factors

The most important risk factor for both an embolic and a thrombotic stroke is high blood pressure. Fortunately, this risk factor that can be easily altered through proper diet, exercise and medication. Other factors that put you at higher risk for stroke include diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and old age

Stroke Symptoms

Symptoms are usually similar for thrombotic and embolic strokes and depend on where the obstruction is located and which parts of the brain experience decreased blood flow. Most often the onset of a stroke is very sudden. People often report that just before a stroke their face and arms feel weak and they have trouble speaking.


Generally, thrombotic and embolic strokes are very similar. They have similar symptoms, causes, and treatments. In fact, a thrombotic stroke can actually lead to an embolic stroke in the event that the thrombus breaks off and becomes an embolus. Both thrombotic and embolic strokes are referred to as ischemia strokes because they cut off or severely reduce the blood supply to the brain.


There are some slight differences between thrombotic and embolic strokes. Since thrombotic strokes involve a more gradual blockage of the artery, their onset is slower. Embolic strokes usually have a much more sudden and severe onset because they involve debris or particles from other parts of the body and do not build up over time.

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