Skip to main content

Cerebral Embolism

What is a Cerebral Embolism?

A cerebral embolism, the most common type of embolic stroke, occurs when a blood clot forms in one part of the body and then travels through the blood to the brain, where it blocks adequate oxygen and blood flow. As a result, brain cells may die off. Symptoms include trouble walking and speaking, as well as muscle paralysis and numbness. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

Causes of Cerebral Embolisms

A cerebral embolism may occur because of heart disease, heart surgery, or atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heart rhythm. Risk factors include obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, drug use, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. African Americans, people over 40 and women who have recently given birth are also at increased risk.

Symptoms of Cerebral Embolism

Stroke symptoms can include confusion, dizziness, nausea, headaches, difficulty speaking, vision problems, and sudden numbness of the face, arms or leg, especially on one side of the body. Muscles may be stiff. If a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, try to check the acronym F-A-S-T for signs that a stroke has occurred:

FACE: Does the patient’s face droop on one side when asked to attempt to smile?

ARMS: Does one arm sag when a patient is asked to raise both arms to the side?

SPEECH: Does the patient slur or lag when asked to say a simple phrase?

TIME: Call 911 immediately if these symptoms are apparent.

Diagnosis of a Cerebral Embolism

Your doctor will conduct a complete physical exam and order appropriate imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, carotid ultrasound, or cerebral angiogram, to verify and treat a stroke.

Treatment of Cerebral Embolism

A tissue plasminogen activator can be administered through the arm to dissolve blood clots if the patient suffered an embolic stroke within just a few hours. Additionally, a carotid endarterectomy may be performed to remove plaque lining in the carotid artery to improve blood flow. A clot can also be removed manually with a catheter. Medications and lifestyle changes may be recommended to prevent another stroke.

What you can expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

UTHealth Houston Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. You will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.