Embolism: The obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance or a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream, lodging in a blood vessel, plugging the vessel. Foreign substances that can cause embolisms include air bubbles, amniotic fluid, globules of fat, clumps of bacteria, chemicals (such as talc), and drugs (mainly illegal ones). Blood clots are the most common causes of embolisms. A pulmonary embolus is a blood clot that has been carried through the blood into the pulmonary artery (the main blood vessel from the heart to the lung) or one of its branches, plugging that vessel within the lung.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016