Myocardial infarction

Myocardial infarction


With myocardial infarction (MI), also known as heart attack, reduced blood flow through one of the coronary arteries results in myocardial ischemia and necrosis. With cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and western Europe, death usually results from the cardiac damage or complications of an MI.

Mortality is high when treatment is delayed; almost half of all sudden deaths due to an MI occur before hospitalization, within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms. The prognosis improves if vigorous treatment begins immediately.


Predisposing factors include:

  • positive family history

  • hypertension

  • smoking

  • elevated levels of serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoproteins

  • diabetes mellitus

  • obesity or excessive intake of saturated fats, carbohydrates, or salt

  • sedentary lifestyle

  • aging

  • stress or a type A personality (aggressive, ambitious, competitive, addicted to work, chronically impatient)

  • drug use, especially cocaine.

Men and postmenopausal women are more susceptible to an MI than premenopausal women, although incidence is rising among females, especially those who smoke and take a hormonal contraceptive. (See MI in women.)

The site of the MI depends on the vessels involved. Occlusion of the circumflex branch of the left coronary artery causes a lateral wall infarction; occlusion of the anterior descending branch of the left coronary artery, an anterior wall infarction.

True posterior or inferior wall infarctions generally result from occlusion of the right coronary artery or one of its branches. Right ventricular infarctions can also result from right coronary artery occlusion, can accompany inferior infarctions, and may cause right-sided heart failure. With a transmural MI, tissue damage extends through all myocardial layers; with a subendocardial MI, only in the innermost and possibly the middle layers.

Signs and symptoms

The cardinal symptom of an MI is persistent, crushing substernal pain that may radiate to the left arm, jaw, neck, or shoulder blades. Such pain is typically described as heavy, squeezing, or crushing and may persist for 12 hours or more. However, in some MI patients—particularly older adults or diabetics—pain may not occur at all; in others, it may be mild and confused with indigestion.

In patients with coronary artery disease, angina of increasing frequency, severity, or duration (especially if not provoked by exertion, a heavy meal, or cold and wind) may signal impending infarction.

Other features

Other signs and symptoms include a feeling of impending doom, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Some patients may have no symptoms. The patient may experience catecholamine responses, such as coolness in the extremities, perspiration, anxiety, and restlessness. Fever is unusual at the onset of an MI, but a
low-grade fever may develop during the next few days. Blood pressure varies; hypotension or hypertension may be present.


The most common post-MI complications include recurrent or persistent chest pain, arrhythmias, left ventricular failure (resulting in heart failure or acute pulmonary edema), and cardiogenic shock. Unusual but potentially lethal complications that may develop soon after infarction include thromboembolism; papillary muscle dysfunction or rupture, causing mitral insufficiency; rupture of the ventricular septum, causing ventricular septal defect; rupture of the myocardium; and ventricular aneurysm.

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Jun 16, 2016 | Posted by in GENERAL & FAMILY MEDICINE | Comments Off on Myocardial infarction

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