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Blood Clots

Blood Clots Overview

Blood flows throughout the body in arteries and veins supplying cells with nutrients, which allows them to function and remove waste products from metabolism. When blood vessels are damaged or begin to leak, blood is able to clot to repair the damage and restore integrity to the circulatory system.

The clotting mechanism involves a cascade of numerous factors that ultimately form the clot where it is needed. Initially, when a blood vessel is injured, the lining of the vessel attracts platelets that form an initial plug in the vessel wall. These platelets then release chemicals that activate a series of clotting factors called the clotting cascade. Ultimately, fibrin is formed, the protein that crosslinks with itself to form a mesh that makes up the final blood clot.

Picture of blood clotting

Picture of blood clotting

Blood flows through the body in a continuous loop. Blood is pumped through the body by the heart, but that same blood returns back to the heart both by gravity and by muscles in the arms and legs contracting and squeezing, or milking, the blood back to the heart. If blood becomes stagnant, it may clot and cause potential life-threatening conditions.

The medical term for a blood clot is a thrombus (plural: thrombi). An embolus refers to the situation in which the clot breaks and travels in the bloodstream to another location.

There are four potential outcomes regarding a blood clot. It will either

  1. grow,

  2. dissolve,

  3. embolize, or

  4. recannulate (a situation in which capillary blood vessels proliferate within the clot to re-establish blood flow)

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