Cerebral Embolism: Types, Symptoms, Sequelae And Causes

This type of stroke can lead to serious disorders if not detected in time.

Embolic stroke, also known as cerebral embolism, is one of the great health complications that can occur affecting the functioning of the brain. It is a type of stroke that can cause permanent brain damage, induce a coma, or directly lead to death.

Next we will see how cerebral embolism occurs and what type of damage and disorders it can cause.

What is a stroke?

A cerebral embolism is a type of heart attack, that is, a vascular disease in which the flow of blood is interrupted (in this case, blood that runs through the vessels of the brain), seriously compromising the survival of regions of the body irrigated by that duct and its ramifications due to the immediate lack of oxygen. In this way, a suffocation situation occurs that affects an infarcted or ischemic area.

Specifically, what distinguishes cerebral embolism from other types of stroke is the way in which the cessation of blood flow through the affected area occurs . In this disease, a body blocks the blood vessel for a time or permanently until it is removed by surgery.

The difference between a thrombus and an embolus

The obstructing element that produces a cerebral embolism is usually a clot that occurs due to a narrowing of a section of the blood vessel. It must be taken into account, however, that in ischemic accidents this obstructive body can be of two types: either a thrombus or an embolus.

If it is a thrombus, this clot will never have left the wall of the blood vessel, and it will have grown in size there. On the other hand, the plunger does not have a fixed position in the circulatory system, and it goes through the blood vessels until it is “embedded” in one place and produces thrombosis.

Thus, while the thrombus affects the part of the body where it develops, the embolus can come from a distant area of ​​the body and cause problems almost anywhere.

With regard to cerebral embolism, it is found within the ischemias known as embolic accidents, while infarcts produced by thrombi are thrombotic accidents.

Why does the brain damage?

Keep in mind that the brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body, but also one of the most delicate and energy-demanding.

Unlike other structures in the body, it needs a constant blood flow to keep functioning; Specifically, every 100 grams of brain matter needs to receive about 50 ml every minute. of properly oxygenated blood. 

If this amount falls below 30 ml., An infarcted area can be generated due to lack of glucose and oxygen. In the case of cerebral embolism, the infarcted or ischemic area is dead cell tissue basically composed of  neurons and  glia.


The main long-term symptoms produced by this type of ischemic attack can be very varied, since there are many functions that depend on the proper functioning of the brain. However, short-term symptoms are easier to recognize ; They are the following, although the presence of only one does not mean that the cause is this, and they do not have to occur all at once:

  • Severe headache that comes on suddenly
  • Sudden appearance of a feeling of fatigue and tiredness that are difficult to explain.
  • Paralysis and / or numbness of one or more parts of the body, usually aligned on one side, or left or right. For example, paralysis in one half of the face.
  • Loss of vision in a matter of seconds, or double vision.
  • Appearance of an intense tingling sensation in certain areas of the body.
  • Sudden confusion and disorientation : it is difficult to be aware of when and where the person is.

Main types of cerebral embolism

Beyond the classification of ischemic events differentiating between thrombotic and embolic accidents, the latter also present different sub-categories that allow us to better understand the characteristics of each case. 

Fundamentally, these categories depend on the characteristics of the plunger that produces the risk situation. Thus, the main types of cerebral embolism are the following.

1. Air plunger

In these cases, the plunger is an air bubble that works by preventing the passage of blood.

2. Tissue embolus

In this type of embolism, the obstructing body is part of a tumor or groups of cancer cells.

3. Fatty plunger

The plunger is made of fatty material that has accumulated to form a plaque in the blood vessel, and has been traveling through the circulation after detaching from its original position.

4. Cardiac embolus

In this type of stroke, the embolus is a blood clot that has become thick and pasty.

Associated disorders and sequelae

Among the most common sequelae of cerebral embolism are the following:

Emotion regulation disorders

People who have had a stroke may have greater difficulty suppressing impulses, regulating complex emotional responses, or expressing how they feel.

Language disorders

Language uses networks of neurons spread over various parts of the brain, so it is easy for an ischemic accident to affect the biological functions that maintain it. For example, the appearance of  aphasias is relatively common.


Cerebral embolism can cause parts of the body to be “disconnected” from the brain, which causes the muscle fibers that move them not to be activated by the motor neurons that reach them.


Apraxias are disorders based on the difficulty to coordinate voluntary movements.

Memory problems and amnesias

Amnesias, both retrograde and anterograde, are not uncommon. It can also happen that procedural memory decreases, linked to the person’s intelligence.

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