Word of the Week: Embolus

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Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.

Word of the Week: Embolus

How to say it: Embolus (em-bow-luss)

What it means: Something abnormal in the blood like an air bubble or a blood clot.

Where it comes from: From Greek, embolos, "wedge-shaped object"

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Where you might see or hear it: If you are preparing to have surgery, your doctor might go over the risks with you.

One of the risks involved is a blood clot. A blood clot is called a thrombus when it forms in a blood vessel. It's called an embolus when it moves through your bloodstream and blocks a vessel. When this happens, it's called thromboembolism.

Your doctor might suggest that you take precautions, such as moving around and possibly taking medicine. These steps can help prevent a blood clot from forming while you are recovering from surgery.

When you might want to use it: An embolus is not always a blood clot. It can be anything that is in the bloodstream that's not supposed to be there. Air, fat, and even a foreign body can produce an embolism.

If you are told that you have a pulmonary embolism, using the term could help you explain your medical situation to your loved ones.

However, it would be easier for them to understand if you talked about what is causing the stoppage—for example, a blood clot or an air bubble. It will also help if you tell them where it's located (in this case, your lung).

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