Thrombosis (from Ancient Greek θρόμβωσις thrómbōsis "clotting”) is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel (a vein or an artery) is injured, the body uses platelets (thrombocytes) and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss. Even when a blood vessel is not injured, blood clots may form in the body under certain conditions. A clot, or a piece of the clot, that breaks free and begins to travel around the body is known as an embolus.
Thrombosis may occur in veins (venous thrombosis) or in arteries (arterial thrombosis). Venous thrombosis leads to congestion of the affected part of the body, while arterial thrombosis (and rarely severe venous thrombosis) affects the blood supply and leads to damage of the tissue supplied by that artery (ischemia and necrosis). A piece of either an arterial or a venous thrombus can break off as an embolus which can travel through the circulation and lodge somewhere else as an embolism. This type of embolism is known as a thromboembolism. Complications can arise when a venous thromboembolism (commonly called a VTE) lodges in the lung as a pulmonary embolism. An arterial embolus may travel further down the affected blood vessel where it can lodge as an embolism.
A clot in an artery or vein is made up of platelets, which are little particles in the blood that coagulate, and fibrin, which is the fibrous protein that cross-links to plug the artery.
The twenty-first century saw the discovery of an enzyme called t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator), which breaks down the fibrin and dissipates the clot.