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What Is an Ischemic Infarction?

H. Colledge
H. Colledge

Ischemia is a condition in which there is not enough blood being supplied to a part of the body, such as a tissue or an organ. An infarct is an area of tissue which has died off, typically as the result of an insufficient blood supply. So, an ischemic infarction is a region of dead tissue caused by a lack of blood reaching that area. Ischemic infarction often occurs in the brain, where it is commonly referred to as a stroke. It can also occur in the heart, where it is known as a myocardial infarction or heart attack.

The most frequent cause of an ischemic infarction is a blood clot developing inside an artery. Clots typically form in arteries which are affected by the condition known as atherosclerosis, commonly referred to as narrowing of the arteries. In atherosclerosis, fatty deposits collect on artery walls and blood clots are more likely to develop in association with these, especially when a hard deposit cracks open to reveal its soft core.


Once an artery is blocked by a clot, the area of tissue supplied by that artery no longer receives oxygenated blood. This causes the tissue to die unless the problem is quickly remedied. In a stroke, an area of brain tissue is lost, while a heart attack causes a piece of heart muscle to die.

Some of the factors which increase a person's risk of ischemic infarction can not be changed. These include age and family history. Fortunately, many of the risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, can be changed. This means that preventing an ischemic infarction is possible if a person makes a number of lifestyle changes. These may include exercising regularly, eating healthily, losing weight, giving up smoking and controlling conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The symptoms of ischemic infarction vary according to the part of the body affected. During a stroke, a person's face may appear to droop at one side, one arm may become weak and speech could be slurred. A heart attack could cause crushing chest pain, which might extend down an arm or into the jaw, together with nausea, sweating and breathlessness. Treating an ischemic infarction in the heart could involve the use of drugs, oxygen, and either emergency surgery or an injection of clot-destroying medication. Clot dissolving drugs and other types of medication may also be used to treat ischemic strokes.

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