What is the Most Common Myocardial Infarction Pathophysiology?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2019
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Myocardial infarction is the formal medical term for a heart attack. The term specifically refers to an infarction of the myocardium, which simply translates to damage of the inner muscular wall of the heart. This is significant since the myocardium is responsible for pumping away from the heart. Should this function become impaired, ischemia will occur, a condition characterized by a lack of sufficient blood and oxygen supply to the heart. While there are numerous risk factors that can contribute to a diseased heart, the most common myocardial infarction pathophysiology is atheriosclerosis.

Atheriosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that compromises arterial walls, the main function of which are to transport oxygen from the heart to the rest of the body via the circulatory system. Healthy arteries possess strong and elastic walls in which specialized white blood cells called macrophages remove excess fats and cholesterol. However, if an excessive amount of macrophages and low-density lipoproteins accumulate within arterial walls, a plaque forms by a process known as furring or hardening of the arteries.


The mechanism behind atheriosclerosis being considered the most common myocardial infarction pathophysiology is actually two-fold. Either the condition is due to a complete occlusion, or blockage, of one or more arteries leading to the heart, or caused by pieces of arterial plaque rupturing and migrating away from the accumulation site and causing blot clots to develop elsewhere. The end and permanent result is the same in either event: The cells of the myocardial tissue die, leaving collagen scars behind.

Although atheriosclerosis is the most common myocardial infarction pathophysiology, its development does not always trigger a sudden heart attack. In fact, various other complications can arise before a heart attack occurs, if at all. Secondary conditions related to myocardial dysfunction include pulmonary congestion and edema, dyspnea, tachycardia, and arrhythmias.

The likelihood of any of the above-mentioned conditions occurring depends on the location in which myocardial infarction pathophysiology takes place, as well as the size and nature of occlusions involved. For instance, if the arteries of the left side of the heart are affected, the patient is at risk for pulmonary congestion and edema. This type of myocardial damage is also associated with excessive sweating, nausea, heart palpitations, and dyspnea, or shortness of breath.

The primary symptom of myocardial infarction is chest pain, most often described as a feeling of heavy pressure or tightening of the chest. In addition, pain often radiates from the chest to other regions, such as the left arm. However, pain may also travel to the neck, jaw line, right arm, or upper back. Experiencing any of these symptoms warrants immediate medical attention, particularly if there is a history of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking, or diabetes.


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