Pulmonary infarction in acute pulmonary embolism

Link to article at PubMed

Thromb Res. 2021 Apr 1;202:162-169. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2021.03.022. Online ahead of print.


Pulmonary infarction results from occlusion of the distal pulmonary arteries leading to ischemia, hemorrhage and ultimately necrosis of the lung parenchyma. It is most commonly caused by acute pulmonary embolism (PE), with a reported incidence of around 30%. Following an occlusion of the pulmonary artery, the bronchial arteries are recruited as primary source of perfusion of the pulmonary capillaries. The relatively higher blood pressure in the bronchial circulation causes an increase in the capillary blood flow, leading to extravasation of erythrocytes (i.e. alveolar hemorrhage). If this hemorrhage cannot be resorbed, it results in tissue necrosis and infarction. Different definitions of pulmonary infarction are used in literature (clinical, radiological and histological), although the diagnosis is nowadays mostly based on radiological characteristics. Notably, the infarcted area is only replaced by a fibrotic scar over a period of months. Hence and formally, the diagnosis of pulmonary infarction cannot be confirmed upon diagnosis of acute PE. Little is known of the impact and relevance of pulmonary infarction in acute PE, and whether specific management strategies should be applied to prevent and/or treat complications such as pain, pneumonia or post-PE syndrome. In this review we will summarize current knowledge on the pathophysiology, epidemiology, diagnosis and prognosis of pulmonary infarction in the setting of acute PE. We highlight the need for dedicated studies to overcome the current knowledge gaps.

PMID:33862471 | DOI:10.1016/j.thromres.2021.03.022

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