Pulmonary infarction – causes, complaints & therapy

pulmonary infarction

At a pulmonary infarction It is a pulmonary embolism, which often has its origin in pathological changes of the veins. Pulmonary embolism is a serious event that leads to death if left untreated. If a lung infarct occurs, a quick action is required.

Table of Contents

What is a pulmonary infarction??

A pulmonary embolism is caused by the obstruction of the veins leading to the heart. Deposits can occur on the vascular walls of the veins, making it impossible for the blood to pass through them. At the same time parts of the deposits can be carried on and get into the lungs with the blood stream. If these now clog a vessel of the lungs, it comes to pulmonary embolism. The area can no longer be supplied with blood and serious symptoms occur.


A thrombosis is the clumping of the blood in certain vessels. This mechanism is the body’s own and in open wounds intended to quickly glue the injured skin, so that no blood can escape to the outside. If this happens in healthy blood vessels, the foundation stone for a lung infarct is laid. In 80 percent of cases, a pulmonary embolism results in thrombosis.

Particles are released from the vessel deposit and are brought into the lungs with the blood for oxygenation. Parts of the bone marrow or gas bubbles, which get into the veins through medical interventions, injuries or dive accidents, can also be responsible. Longer chests, surgeries and certain medications as well as serious injuries or cancers increase the risk of venous thrombosis and thus of pulmonary infarction.

Symptoms and course

Typical symptoms of pulmonary infarction:

Depending on the size of the particle and the part that is clogged by it, the complaints also vary. The first signs of pulmonary embolism are sudden breathlessness or accelerated breathing, chest pain, fainting, shock, sweats, coughing, which can be bloody, and a rapid heartbeat. The symptoms can be shuddery and repetitive.

Because of the often ambiguous symptoms, lung infarcts are often detected too late, which can lead to the death of the affected person. During pulmonary embolism, the dissolved blood particles travel through the body. Just before reaching the portal vein, which leads to the right half of the heart, the veins dilate. The vessels only decrease in size within the lungs. This means that the particles settle after they have already passed the portal vein and become clogged within the lungs.

Once the vein is no longer passable, blood accumulates before the blockage, the flow rate is reduced. This can lead to further blood clotting. The right half of the heart tries to withstand the sudden pressure by increasing the pumping power, yet the left half lacks blood. The blood pressure drops, the coronary vessels are no longer supplied with sufficient blood, which reduces the cardiac output and the body is not supplied with enough oxygen.


The diagnosis is made by a physical examination, which also focuses on the patient’s medical history. Any risk factors, signs and complaints must be clarified. A laboratory examination gives information about the condition of the blood, the ultrasound about the load of the right heart.


A lung infarct is the life-threatening complication of a pulmonary embolism, which is usually triggered by a thrombosis. It must therefore be urgently treated by a doctor to avoid consequential damage. Pulmonary infarction causes severe pain in the chest and rib area and respiratory distress, leading to a significant reduction in the patient’s mood and mobility. The respiratory distress, by which the organs are no longer sufficiently supplied with oxygen, can cause lasting damage. In the course of the disease comes to further complications such as hemoptysis.

If the lung infarct is treated quickly, there is a good chance of a cure. Since the symptoms of a lung infarction are not always clear, but quick action is required, a doctor should always be called to avoid serious complications, even with unspecific signs. If the circulatory disorder is not treated in time, pneumonia and lung tissue death may be imminent. In the worst case, patients may die from circulatory shock.

Treatment and therapy

The therapy is adjusted to the degree of pulmonary infarction. The first measures, however, are absolute bed rest as well as the intake of painkillers and sedatives. The focus of treatment is to avoid further embolism. Here is resorting to drugs that include heparin, an anticoagulant. This prevents the thrombus from enlarging and eventually releasing particles that could clog the pulmonary vessels.

In addition, sufferers receive a blood-thinning agent in the form of tablets. This is a drug from the category of vitamin K antagonists. Affected individuals must wear thrombosis stockings after a pulmonary embolism throughout their lives to prevent the recurrence of a thrombus in the leg veins. At the first suspicion it is advisable to see a doctor immediately. Left untreated, the kidnapped blood clot can be deadly. Pulmonary infarction is the third leading cause of death in Germany.


A lung infarction can be prevented by a thrombosis prophylaxis. These include the intake of medication, the moderate movement of Bettlägrigen and the wearing of thrombosis stockings. Long episodes without movement, but also for hours standing should be avoided.

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Christina Cherry
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