Intracardiac thrombosis is the medical term for a blood clot in the heart. You should get immediate medical assistance if you experience symptoms like chest pain, labored breathing, or coughing up blood.

An estimated 900,000 Americans are impacted by blood clots every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These clots can form in various parts of the body, frequently require medical attention, and contribute to approximately 100,000 deaths annually.

One place where blood clots can develop is in the heart. The medical term for this is intracardiac thrombosis. This is an extremely serious condition and can even cause sudden death.

In this article, we help you better understand the signs and symptoms of intracardiac thrombosis, what this means, and the types of treatment you might discuss with medical professionals.

Thrombosis is the medical term for a blood clot, and intracardiac thrombosis refers to a blood clot in the heart.

People can experience intracardiac thrombosis in any of the four chambers of their heart. All intracardiac thrombosis is extremely serious. It’s important to identify exactly where the thrombosis is to determine the appropriate forms of treatment and assess possible risks.

The number of people who’ve experienced intracardiac thrombosis historically is hard to determine because this condition often went undetected or was misdiagnosed as another condition based on similar symptoms. For a period of time, intracardiac thrombi were even commonly discovered after death during autopsies.

With scientific advancements, diagnosing this condition is no longer as difficult as it once was, and it can be treated when diagnosed correctly.

Intracardiac thrombosis should be taken extremely seriously as it’s a potentially life threatening condition that can cause sudden death. There are two different types of this condition based on where it occurs in your heart:

  • Left-sided thrombi (involving the left atrium and left ventricle): This type is associated with an increased risk for peripheral embolization. This can lead to serious conditions outside the heart like brain seizures.
  • Right-sided thrombi (involving the right atrium and right ventricle): This type is associated with pulmonary artery aneurysm and vena cava thrombosis.

About thrombosis

Thrombosis means that a blood clot has formed and is reducing the ability of blood to flow through an area. Thrombosis is often compared to an embolism, but these are two different conditions. You can learn more about their differences here.

You can reduce your chance of thrombosis by exercising, eating a nutritious, balanced diet, quitting smoking if you smoke, and managing any other health conditions.

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To be classified as intracardiac thrombosis, the thrombosis must occur in the heart.

According to a 2022 study, right ventricular thrombus is less common than left ventricular thrombus. But this may vary depending on what’s causing the thrombosis.

Some of the potential risk factors for intracardiac thrombosis include:

Deep vein thrombosis can also lead to right ventricular thrombosis. Some other causes of thrombosis are heart failure, intracardiac devices, and atrial fibrillation.

It’s important to seek medical assistance as soon as signs of a blood clot appear because intracardiac thrombosis is extremely serious, and you cannot treat it on your own.

Symptoms of intracardiac thrombosis can include:

  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • labored breathing
  • cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)

Intracardiac thrombosis was once mostly diagnosed during an autopsy post-death. But as it’s become more known, doctors may now be more able to diagnose it before death. The diagnostic tests used for intracardiac thrombosis include:

  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • Echocardiography with echocardiographic contrast agents (ECAs)

In addition to taking images of the heart, doctors may order blood tests to look for signs that the heart is under stress and for other risk factors like low levels of proteins C and S.

Treatment for intracardiac thrombosis will typically initially occur at the hospital.

Doctors may try a variety of different techniques to treat the blood clots, including anticoagulants and surgery.

But best practices are not established for doctors managing patients with intracardiac thrombosis, and research is somewhat limited on clinical guidelines.

Left ventricular thrombus is often treated with a drug called warfarin for at least 3 to 6 months. According to this 2021 study, the American Heart Association guidelines recommend using the following medications:

  • low molecular weight heparin (LMWH)
  • dabigatran
  • rivaroxaban
  • apixaban (for patients who are unable to take warfarin)

There are no definite guidelines for treating right ventricular thrombosis. Instead, it’s treated on a case-by-case basis.

Doctors will need to treat any conditions that contributed to it, like hypertension or heart failure.

In cases where lung damage from conditions like COVID-19 is involved, you may need oxygen therapy in the intensive care unit. Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics for any infections.

Because repeat thrombosis is possible, even if thrombosis appears to clear up, it’s important to remain on your doctor-prescribed treatment plan and continue to be monitored for months after any known intracardiac thrombosis.

Intracardiac thrombosis is a potentially life threatening condition where a blood clot forms in the heart muscle. It may result in chest pain, labored breathing, or coughing up blood. If you experience any signs or symptoms of intracardiac thrombosis, it’s important to seek immediate medical assistance because it can cause sudden death.