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Thrombotic vs embolic stroke: Understand the differences

Cardiovascular Conditions | Published: June 24th 2024, 05:23PM

Identify and differentiate ischemic strokes and learn how HBOT can help recovery


A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted, leading to brain cell damage. There are two different kinds of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. The ischemic strokes, which account for 87% of all strokes [1], occur because blood flow to the brain is blocked, and they can be thrombotic or embolic.

Understanding the differences between each of them is essential for proper diagnosis and effective treatment, as strokes are the fifth cause of death in the USA. [2] Keep reading to learn more about ischemic strokes, their differences, and how hyperbaric treatment can help a patient’s recovery.


Thrombotic stroke

What is a thrombotic stroke?

A thrombotic stroke is when a blood clot, also called a thrombus, forms in one of the brain’s blood vessels, blocking blood flow and depriving parts of the brain of oxygen. This type of ischemic stroke is often linked to health conditions that lead to the buildup of fatty deposits, which narrow and harden blood vessels, making it easier for clots to form.

Thrombotic stroke risk factors

  • Hypertension
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Age

Thrombotic stroke symptoms

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body can affect the face, arm, or leg.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech: Trouble forming words, slurred speech, or confusion in understanding others.
  • Vision problems: Trouble seeing with one or both eyes, including blurred or double vision.
  • Severe headache: An intense and sudden headache.
  • Difficulty walking: including loss of balance and stumbling.


Related resource:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Brain Health


Embolic stroke

What is an embolic stroke?

An embolic stroke happens when a blood clot, in this case an embolus, travels through the bloodstream. This kind of clot is formed elsewhere in the body but moves until it reaches and becomes lodged in a blood vessel inside the brain, blocking blood and stopping oxygen from flowing.

Embolic stroke risk factors

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart valve disease
  • Recent surgery

Embolic stroke symptoms

  • Sudden confusion: Abrupt disorientation, often with difficulty understanding surroundings or situations.
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech: Difficulty forming words or sentences, slurred speech, or struggling to comprehend when spoken to.
  • Difficulty moving one side of the body: Sudden weakness or paralysis affecting one side of the body, including the face, arm, or leg.
  • Difficulty walking: Unsteadiness, loss of balance, stumbling, or weakness in the legs.


What is the difference between a thrombotic and embolic stroke?

Thrombotic strokes occur when blood clots form within brain arteries due to conditions like atherosclerosis. In contrast, embolic strokes result from blood clots formed elsewhere in the body, often in the heart, traveling to the brain.

In both cases, blockages cause oxygen to stop flowing to the brain. Furthermore, both types of strokes share similar symptoms, including sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and trouble walking.


Thrombotic and embolic stroke treatments

Treatment for ischemic strokes involves immediate action to restore blood flow and long-term management to prevent future strokes.

Clot-busting meds are given immediately to dissolve clots. However, getting to the hospital in time to get the medication can save lives and reduce long-term effects. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of a stroke and seek treatment immediately.

In some cases, doctors may consider using a wire-cage device (called a stent retriever) to remove the blood clot. Following these procedures, patients typically receive medication to prevent existing clots from getting larger and new ones from forming.

Long-term treatment varies based on the type of stroke. It can include rehab therapy to recover function loss, meds to control risk factors like high blood pressure, and lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and exercise.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients can be part of a treatment program in the long run. It involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, which boosts oxygen levels in the blood and tissues, improving blood flow to damaged areas of the brain. Additionally, HBOT reduces inflammation, which is a major factor in tissue damage after a stroke.


Related resource:
What are the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients?


Ready to experience the healing power of oxygen?

Our Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center team has been honored to support many patients on their healing journey at our medical centers in Orlando and New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Our caring, knowledgeable hyperbaric specialists work together to determine the best treatment regimen for each patient’s unique circumstances.


We welcome you to contact us today.


1: Types of stroke, Johns Hopkins Medicine
2: Ischemic stroke, American Stroke Association
3: Thrombotic Stroke, Harvard Health Publishing



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