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In paradoxical embolism , also known as crossed embolism, an embolus from the veins crosses to the arterial blood system. This is generally found only with heart problems such as septal defects (holes in the cardiac septum) between the atria or ventricles. The most common such abnormality is patent foramen ovale , occurring in about 25% of the adult population, but here the defect functions as a valve which is normally closed, because pressure is slightly higher in the left side of the heart. Sometimes, for example if a patient coughs just when an embolus is passing, it might cross to the arterial system.

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