Interventional Cardiology

Embolic stroke

What is an embolic stroke?

An embolic stroke, which is a type of ischemic stroke, is caused by blockage of a blood vessel (artery) supplying the brain. Brain tissue that no longer receives its blood supply can die within a few hours unless something is done to stop the damage. 

The blockage of arteries can occur in large arteries in the neck or the base of the brain, or in small arteries inside the brain itself.  A blood clot can form in the brain or it can form elsewhere and be carried to the brain by an artery.  

Sometimes the clot can form in the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. These clots can travel to any artery in the brain, but more often they block the larger arteries, causing more severe strokes. Embolic strokes can cause any of the typical symptoms of ischemic stroke.  The most common symptoms of a stroke are: 

  1. Sudden weakness or numbness of face, arm or leg; especially if the numbness is all on one side of the body

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause


There are many conditions that increase a person’s risk of ischemic stroke. These include:

  • high blood pressure

  • heart disease

  • high cholesterol

  • diabetes,

  • smoking

  • an unhealthy lifestyle

Treating these conditions can decrease stroke risk. Depending on the diagnosis, high risk of embolic stroke patients may be undergo the one of the following procedures: