All of the organs in the body require an adequate amount of blood flow in order to operate correctly and stay in good working order. When an organ is deprived of blood by a blocked or damaged artery, the tissues may die, causing the organ to fail or suffer permanent damage. A brain infarction is when the brain is prevented from receiving blood, leading to tissue damage, stroke, and possible fatality.
There are two types of brain infarction, based on where the damage occurs. A cerebral infarction occurs when the cerebral cortex is starved of blood due to damage to the carotid arteries. The lower part of the brain receives most of its blood from vertebral arteries, leading to a brain stem infarction when blood supply is choked off. Both types of infarction can lead to serious complications such as brain damage or even death.
A brain infarction will often have immediate symptoms consistent with a stroke. Motor skill trouble, dizziness, numbness or paralysis may occur. Some patients may lose vision or begin seeing double, and may have difficulty speaking clearly. Sudden headaches, nausea, or vomiting may also be signs of an infarction in the brain. Anyone known to be at risk for a stroke should be treated with prompt medical attention if any symptoms appear. Immediate treatment may save lives or prevent serious damage, although in some cases the condition can simply not be treated fast enough to save a patient.
Because blocked arteries are a major contributing factor for stroke or infarction, people who smoke or have high cholesterol levels may be considered to be high risk for the condition. People with medical conditions or on medication that may cause blood clots may also have a higher risk of a brain infarction. Some recent studies have also indicated that patients with sleep apnea or chronic snoring issues may be at risk as well.
As artery function typically decreases with age, the elderly are considered most at risk for brain infarction. However, the condition can arise at any age, and is also associated with infantile or fetal brain damage. Since not all types of infarction are symptomatic or occur suddenly, even healthy adults can have a growing infarction and be unaware of it. A symptom-free “silent infarction” can be as serious as an infarction with a sudden appearance, and can be more difficult to diagnose because of the lack of symptoms.
Long-term effects and prognosis may depend on the severity of the damage and how quickly the condition is treated. Drug treatment may be available to increase blood flow to the affected area and clear blocked arteries. As with many conditions, beginning treatment as early as possible appears to be a key factor in successful recovery.