Unusual Cerebral Emboli

Neuroimaging Clin N Am. 2016 Feb;26(1):147-63. doi: 10.1016/j.nic.2015.09.013. Epub 2015 Oct 17.


The heart and the carotid arteries are the most common sites of origin of embolic disease to the brain. Clots arising from these locations are the most common types of brain emboli. Less common cerebral emboli include air, fat, calcium, infected vegetations, and tumor cells as well as emboli originating in the venous system. Although infarcts can be the final result of any type of embolism, described herein are the ancillary and sometimes unique imaging features of less common types of cerebral emboli that may allow for a specific diagnosis to be made or at least suspected in many patients.

Keywords: Air embolism; Cerebral embolism; Fat embolism; Myxoma; Paradoxic embolism; Septic emboli.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Stenosis / complications*
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Angiography / methods*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Intracranial Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Intracranial Embolism / etiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity