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Blood Clot in the Heart: Symptoms, Signs & Treatment

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  • 0:04 What Is a Blood Clot?
  • 1:12 Blood Clot in the…
  • 2:14 Treating Blood Clots…
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jose Hernandez
If blood clots are important for healthy living, how can they be so dangerous as well? This lesson will briefly cover the basics of a blood clot, focusing on the symptoms, signs, and treatments of blood clots occurring in the heart.

What Is a Blood Clot?

Blood clots are important for keeping our bodies healthy. When you get a cut, nose bleed, or even broken bones, blood clots help to stop the bleeding and heal the injury. However, when blood clots enter the bloodstream, serious complications can occur. Blood clots can travel through the bloodstream and block circulation to major organs in the body, such as the heart, brain, and lungs.

Blood clots in the heart prevent blood flow, which can lead to cardiac muscle death
Blood clots in the heart prevent blood flow, which can lead to cardiac muscle death

Blood clots can affect blood circulation by blocking either the arteries or the veins. Arteries carry oxygenated blood to different parts of the body, while veins carry blood back to the heart. However, in the heart, blood clots happen in the coronary arteries, the vessels that directly feed the heart muscle cells. If these arteries are affected by a blood clot, the cardiac muscle in the heart will stop receiving blood, and possibly die. This can eventually lead to a heart attack.

A blood clot can be compared to a traffic jam during rush hour. During normal hours, traffic flows at a steady pace. However, in case of an accident, traffic can significantly slow down or downright stop. This is similar to what can happen to blood flow if a blood clot occurs in the heart.

Blood Clot in the Heart: Signs, Symptoms

Blood clots in the heart cause similar symptoms to those of a heart attack. Some of those symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain, tightness, and pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, and arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

So why all the similarities between blood clots in the heart and heart attack symptoms? A heart attack is caused when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood in the heart, causing cardiac muscle to die. So a person experiencing a blood clot in the heart can suffer a heart attack if the blood clot is of considerable size. However, as is the case with some heart attacks, a person with blood clots in the heart can remain symptom-free until emergency care is necessary.

As previously mentioned, a blood clot in the heart can lead to a heart attack. Therefore, a person having the same signs as a heart attack, such as excessive sweating, problems breathing, and pain in the left arm, should receive immediate medical assistance. These signs should not be treated lightly, as they can lead to further complications.

Treating Blood Clots in the Heart

Blood clots in the heart can be treated through medication. If a person experiences a heart attack caused by blood clots in the heart, medication might be prescribed initially to dissolve the blood clot. A dosage of antiplatelets, such as aspirin, can decrease the possibility of heart attacks caused by blood clots. A doctor might use blood thinning medication or anticoagulants to prevent the growth of the blood clot.

Further treatment and therapy might be required depending on the size and specific location of the blood clot in the heart. Antiplatelets, blood thinning medication, and anticoagulants might be prescribed to prevent any further complications. However, there are cases when medication alone isn't enough to remove the clot. One surgical procedure includes inserting a catheter into an artery, usually in the leg, until it reaches the blood clot. The surgeon will then be able to break up and remove the blood clot.

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