Blood clot diagram.

A thrombus (Greek θρόμβος), or blood clot, is the final product of the blood coagulation step in hemostasis. It is achieved via the aggregation of platelets that form a platelet plug, and the activation of the humoral coagulation system (i.e. clotting factors). A thrombus is normal in cases of injury, but pathologic in instances of thrombosis.

Mural thrombi are thrombi adherent to the vessel wall. They are not occlusive and affect large vessels, such as heart and aorta. Grossly they appear grey-red with alternating light and dark lines (lines of Zahn) which represent clotted plasma and red blood cells respectively.



Specifically, a thrombus is the inappropriate activation of the hemostatic process in an uninjured or slightly injured vessel. A thrombus in a large blood vessel will decrease blood flow through that vessel (termed a mural thrombus). In a small blood vessel, blood flow may be completely cut-off (termed an occlusive thrombus) resulting in death of tissue supplied by that vessel. If a thrombus dislodges and becomes free-floating, it is termed as an embolus.

Some of the conditions which elevate risk of blood clots developing include atrial fibrillation (a form of cardiac arrhythmia), heart valve replacement, a recent heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction), extended periods of inactivity (see deep venous thrombosis), and genetic or disease-related deficiencies in the blood's clotting abilities.


Platelet activation can occur through different mechanisms such as a vessel wall breach that exposes collagen, or tissue factor encryption. The platelet activation causes a cascade of further platelet activation eventually causing the formation of the thrombus.[1]


Blood clot prevention and treatment reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism. Heparin and warfarin are often used to inhibit the formation and growth of existing thrombi; the former binds to and activates the enzyme inhibitor antithrombin III, while the latter inhibits vitamin K epoxide reductase, an enzyme needed to synthesize mature clotting factors.


Virchow's triad describes the pathogenesis of thrombus formation:

  1. Endothelial injury (injury to the endothelial cells that line enclosed spaces of the body, such as the inside of blood vessels) (e.g. trauma, atheroma)
  2. Abnormal blood flow (loss of laminar flow resulting from stasis[disambiguation needed ] in veins or turbulence in arteries) (e.g. valvulitis, aneurysm)
  3. Hypercoagulability (e.g. leukaemia, Factor V mutation (Leiden))

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) involves widespread microthrombi formation throughout the majority of the blood vessels. This is due to excessive consumption of coagulation factors and subsequent activation of fibrinolysis using all of the body's available platelets and clotting factors. The end result is hemorrhaging and ischaemic necrosis of tissue/organs. Causes are septicaemia, acute leukaemia, shock, snake bites, fat emboli from broken bones, or other severe traumas. DIC may also be seen in pregnant females. Treatment involves the use of fresh frozen plasma to restore the level of clotting factors in the blood, platelets and heparin to prevent further thrombi formation.


Thrombus formation can have one of five outcomes: propagation, embolization, dissolution, organization and organization with recanalization.[2]

  1. Propagation of a thrombus occurs towards the direction of the heart. This means that it is anterograde in veins or retrograde in arteries.
  2. Embolization occurs when the thrombus breaks free from the vascular wall and becomes mobile. A venous emboli (most likely from deep venous thrombosis in the lower extremities) will travel through the systemic circulation, reach the right side of the heart, and travel through the pulmonary artery resulting in a pulmonary embolism. On the other hand, arterial thrombosis resulting from hypertension or atherosclerosis can become mobile and the resulting emboli can occlude any artery or arteriole downstream of the thrombus formation. This means that cerebral stroke, myocardial infarction, or any other organ can be affected.
  3. Dissolution occurs when fibrinolytic mechanisms break up the thrombus and blood flow is restored to the vessel. This may be aided by drugs (for example after occlusion of a coronary artery). The best response to fibrinolytic drugs is within a couple of hours, before the fibrin meshwork of the thrombus has been fully developed.
  4. Organization and recanalization involves the ingrowth of smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts and endothelium into the fibrin-rich thrombus. If recanalization proceeds it provides capillary-sized channels through the thrombus for continuity of blood flow through the entire thrombus but may not restore sufficient blood flow for the metabolic needs of the downstream tissue.

See also


  1. ^ Furie, Bruce; Furie, Barbara (2008). "Mechanisms of Thrombus Formation". The New England Journal of Medicine 359 (9). doi:10.1056/NEJMra0801082. PMID 18753650. 
  2. ^ Robbins Basic Pathology; ISBN 978-1-4160-2973-1

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • thrombus — [ trɔ̃bys ] n. m. • 1539; trumbe v. 1370; mot lat., du gr. thrombos ♦ Méd. Masse sanguine coagulée dans un vaisseau, où elle détermine une thrombose. ● thrombus nom masculin (grec thrombos, caillot) Masse sanguine coagulée dans un vaisseau, dont… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Thrombus — Throm bus, n.; pl. {Thrombi}. [NL., fr. Gr. ? a lump, a clot of blood.] (Med.) (a) A clot of blood formed of a passage of a vessel and remaining at the site of coagulation. (b) A tumor produced by the escape of blood into the subcutaneous… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Thrombus — (gr.), Blutklumpen, Blutpfropf, Blutkuchen, Blutgeschwulst; daher Thromboschĕsis, Verhalten, Zurückhaltung von Blutklumpen. Thrombōsis (Pfropfbildung), Verstopfung der Arterien u. Venen durch ein Blutgerinsel. T. lactea, Stockung der Milch in den …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Thrombus — (griech.), s. Thrombosis …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Thrombus — Thrombus,der:⇨Blutgerinnsel …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • thrombus — 1690s, Mod.L., from Gk. thrombos lump, piece, clot of blood, curd of milk …   Etymology dictionary

  • thrombus — [thräm′bəs] n. pl. thrombi [thräm′bī΄] [ModL < Gr thrombos, a clot < IE * dhrómbhos < base * dherebh , to coagulate] the fibrinous clot attached at the site of thrombosis …   English World dictionary

  • Thrombus — « Caillot » redirige ici. Pour les autres significations, voir Caillot (homonymie). Un caillot sanguin …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Thrombus — Schematische Darstellung Aus den Herzkranzgefä …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • thrombus — A clot in the cardiovascular systems formed during life from constituents of blood; it may be occlusive or attached to the vessel or heart wall without obstructing the lumen (mural t.). [L. fr. G. thrombos, a clot] …   Medical dictionary

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