The organs and tissues of the body require a regular supply of blood, oxygen, and glucose. Some of the most important tissues have the greatest requirements, including the brain and heart. If there is a reduction in blood or oxygen to the tissue, it can begin to break down and cause damage. Tissue damage, or infarction, can begin within just minutes of lack of oxygen, leading to permanent damage.
Infarction of the heart, brain, or spinal cord can be caused by medical mistakes that lead to permanent injury. Failure to treat an infarction can also increase the damage suffered or lead to a fatal injury. When injuries are caused by medical errors, the patient and their family may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages caused by negligence.
What is an Infarct or Infarction?
An infarct is an area of damaged tissue caused by a reduction in the blood supply. Infarction is the process of tissue death caused by inadequate blood supply. The decreased blood supply can be caused by bleeding, blocked arteries, or constricted blood vessels.
Infarction is related to ischemia, another common term that is referenced around a stroke, heart attack, or brain damage. Ischemia is the diminished oxygen supply to the tissue or organ. Infarction is the body's response to the lack of oxygen. The body's response can involve a cellular reaction which eventually damages cells, leading to tissue death.
The most common causes of infarction are related to blockage of a blood vessel. Blockage of blood vessels can be caused by a gas bubble (air embolism), thrombus (blood clot), or atherosclerotic plaque. Blockage can also be caused by compression from the outside, such as internal hemorrhage or buildup of fluid that compresses the blood vessels.
The type of infarction depends on where the blockage occurs and what tissue is affected by the decrease in blood flow. Some of the most common forms of infarction include:
- Brain infarction (ischemic stroke)
- Spinal cord infarction
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
However, other localized tissues and organs can also be impacted by infarctions, including the lung, spleen, eye, bowel, or bones.
A brain infarction, or cerebral infarction, is a type of stroke. There are a number of possible causes for ischemic infarction, including embolic or thrombotic blockage caused by a blood clot, fat deposits, or gas bubble. In diagnosing brain infarction, tests may include computed tomography (CT) and MRI scans to look at damaged areas of the brain.
Emergency treatment may include IV medication to break up any blood clots and restore blood flow to the brain. Endovascular therapy may clear or open blocked blood vessels through medication or surgical procedure. Additional procedures can open up blocked arteries to reduce the risk of a future ischemic attack, including carotid endarterectomy or angioplasty and stents.
A myocardial infarction (MI), is also known as a heart attack. This infarction causes damage to the heart muscle when blood flow to a part of the heart is limited or stopped. Like the other types of infarction, a heart attack is often caused by atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque in the arteries. When the arteries are narrowed, plaque buildup can restrict blood flow to the heart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack. Risk factors for a myocardial infarction can include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of heart disease
- Heavy alcohol use
Signs and symptoms of an MI vary by person. Some people die without suffering any symptoms of a heart attack. Some of the common warning signs include:
- Chest pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
Treatment of a patient suffering a heart attack may depend on the cause of the attack. Depending on the situation, medication may include aspirin, blood thinners, beta blockers, clot-busters, or nitroglycerin. The patient may also undergo surgical treatment to open the blockage with an angioplasty, stenting to keep an artery open, or bypass surgery to create a route for blood to pass around the blockage.
Spinal cord cells can begin to die within minutes or hours of the infarction, depending on the extent of the blockage and where the blockage occurs. Some cells may be able to recover after reperfusion of oxygenated blood but even the cells that recover may die within 48 hours. After the cells die, it may lead to permanent damage in the area of the spinal cord infarction.
Spinal cord infarctions are not common but they can occur in people of all ages. In children and infants, spinal cord infarction may be caused by trauma (such as a traumatic birth injury), or congenital heart malformations. In adults, the most common cause of spinal cord infarction is related to atherosclerosis.
Spinal cord infarctions can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms may mimic other types of injuries, like transverse myelitis. Symptoms generally develop quickly, usually within about 12 hours, and may include:
- Sharp or burning back pain
- Aching back and leg pain
- Weakness or loss of sensation
Improper Medical Treatment Leading to Infarction
Improper medical care can lead to infarction of the brain, spinal cord, or heart. In many cases, medical mistakes that lead to infarction are based on a misdiagnosis, failure to identify the risk of infarction, diagnostic errors, or medication problems.
For example, after surgery, many patients are required to rest as they recover from the invasive procedure. Lack of movement and remaining bed-bound for a period of time can increase the risk of blood clots. If a doctor fails to monitor a patient after surgery for the threat of blood clots, it can put the patient at risk of infarction, stroke, or other injury.
Medical Malpractice in Failure to Properly Treat an Infarction
Time is of the essence when treating ischemia. The longer it takes to respond to the blockage, the more likely the damage will be permanent. It is important for a healthcare professional to quickly diagnose the possibility of ischemic injury or infarction and take action to treat the problem.
Some patients are waived off after expressing concerns that they may be suffering a stroke, heart attack, or other ischemic attack. Some ischemic attacks, such as a transitory ischemic attack (TIA), also called a ministroke, show a risk of more serious injury. These events should be followed-up closely to reduce the risk of future injury or harm.
Infarction Malpractice Attorneys
At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate brain, spinal cord, and heart injuries to determine if the damage was caused by malpractice Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to infarction injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.