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What are Infarctions?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated: Jan 29, 2024

Infarctions are tissue areas in the body that have died because they did not receive proper oxygen. The term is used to describe the process that causes this condition, as well as to name the tissue that has been affected. The Latin root of infarctions, infarcire, is translated to mean “to plug up or cram.”

Infarctions can occur in any organ within the body and can be caused by a variety of diseases. They are, however, most common with atherosclerosis, a disease of the arterial blood vessel that results in plaque formations in the arteries. When the person suffering from this disorder experiences a plaque rupture, a blood clot forms on the surface of the artery. This prevents proper blood flow. In turn, the clot moves further within the artery and blocks additional blood vessels. This blockage results in tissue death as blood flow, and consequently oxygen flow, are restricted.

Myocardial infarctions (MI) represent another kind of tissue death. During an MI, the heart muscle dies because it has not received proper blood circulation. The most common cause of MI is narrowed coronary arteries, which result in blood clots and restricted blood flow. Other potential causes include sepsis, antiphospholid syndrome, and giant-cell arteritis.

Just as infarctions can be caused by a variety of diseases, they can also cause certain diseases or illnesses to occur. For example, 80% of strokes are believed to be caused by tissue death. Similarly, peripheral arterial occlusive disease, which can cause gangrene and necessitate amputation, can be caused by this condition.

Infarctions are classified as either white or red. White infarctions are also called anemia, while red infarctions are referred to as hemorrhagic. The extent of the bleeding that takes place within the organ determines whether the condition is classified as white or red. Those that occur in solid organs such as the spleen, heart, and kidneys are white because they are the result of a blockage in the artery and involve mostly platelets. Infarctions of the lung, however, are red, because more red blood cells are found in this organ.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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