Pulmonary infarction results from the plugging of a branch of the pulmonary artery (which carries blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs) by a clot that forms in the artery (thrombosis), or, more often, by a piece of clot carried by the bloodstream to the lung from a thrombus located elsewhere. The involved area of the lung becomes functionless and tissue deterioration develops. The condition occurs as a complication of thrombosed veins, of certain forms of heart disease, or of severe injuries. It may also occur following surgery.
The onset is marked by a sudden piercing pain in the chest which radiates to the shoulder, difficult breathing, an irritating cough, and blood-tinged sputum. Persistent hiccup may be present. The patient is anxious, has a rapid pulse, and usually sweats profusely. There may be an elevation of body temperature. In severe cases the patient may be in a state of shock.
Pulmonary infarction is a dangerous condition, the outcome depending on the size of the affected area of lung tissue. Prompt treatment by a physician with the necessary equipment (preferably in a hospital) can save many lives that would otherwise be lost. Fortunately, in most cases patients are already in a hospital when pulmonary infarction occurs. Hospital treatment consists of the administration of oxygen, the use of anticoagulants, and the prevention of infection. Surgery may be indicated.