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Septic emboli, refers to the spread of a part of infected tissue to various sections of the body through the bloodstream. It is also referred to as septic vegetations. Septic emboli can lead to development of strokes and are generally caused due to bacterial infections of the cardiac valves.

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Thrombus vs Embolus

Various types of embolisms can be experienced by the human body. They are usually obstructions to the free passage of blood by an object that gets trapped in a blood vessel. It should not be confused with a thrombus, which refers to the presence of a blood clot in the blood vessels. Instead an embolus is generally used to describe the presence of air bubbles, a tiny clot, plaque or other materials that can spread via the vessels to other areas of the body.

What causes an embolism ?

An embolism that results from an infected tissue is known as a septic embolism, or an arterial embolism. The signs of the condition are often erroneously diagnosed as being caused by other disorders like swollen lymph nodules. The symptoms involve formation of pus at the site of original infection, occasional seizures and numbness

Inflammation and occurrence of pus are considered to be one of the primary signs of septic emboli. One can usually observe the presence of infected tissues around surgical or intravenous sites, especially around veins and other types of blood vessels. The immune system then reacts to the bacteria that affect the body, but there is a possibility of breaking away of pieces of infected tissue, which can then move to other parts of the body via the blood stream and eventually get stuck causing obstruction of blood flow.

Occurrence of numbness in the fingers, limbs and other parts of the body is another prominent symptom of septic emboli. The decrease in the flow of oxygen and blood to the affected locations can lead to tingling sensations. The affected sections of the body can feel cold to touch. In rare instances, the affected site may also elicit a lack of pulse.

Septic emboli can also commonly result in a stroke, which is referred to as a septic stroke. A septic stroke is somewhat similar to a conventional embolism and can obstruct the flow of blood from and to the heart, thereby affecting the functionality of the cardiac valves. This can result in a cardiac shock and lead to a complete failure of the system, which in turn affects the overall flow of blood to various sections of the body, including the flow of blood to the brain. The lack of blood and oxygen flow to the brain is what causes a septic stroke

The diagnosis of septic emboli can be very problematic. Blood tests may reveal possible cases of infections due to elevated levels of white blood cells. However, the cause of such infections cannot be known. Computer tomography can reveal different abnormalities of the pulmonary system and the heart. However, doctors cannot diagnose that infections are the cause of such anomalies using this diagnostic tool, and can only infer the occurrence of blockages.

An MRI and angiograms aid in the effective diagnosis of septic emboli. Angiograms make use of tiny cameras which are passed via the vessels to the affected locations for better observation of the blockages.

Treatment of septic emboli is as per the individual cases, which includes surgical intervention.

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