Pulmonary, or lung, infarction (PI) refers to the death of lung tissue due to a lack of blood supply. Symptoms include chest pain and coughing up blood. It usually stems from another health issue, such as a pulmonary embolism (PE). It can be fatal.

Risk factors for PI include smoking and young age. The condition occurs as a result of lung tissue not receiving enough oxygen.

This article explains the difference between PI and PE. It also discusses the symptoms and causes of PI and the outlook for people with the condition.

Pulmonary infarction in the lungs.Share on Pinterest
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PI is a possible complication of PE. Not all PE cases will lead to PI.

PE is a condition in which a blood clot travels to the pulmonary circulation, which is a group of blood vessels between the heart and the lungs. As the blood clot settles in the arteries, it can cut off the blood supply to lung tissue. This in turn may lead to PI.

A 2015 study involving 335 people found that PI was present in around 31% of the participants with PE.

Risk factors for developing PI with PE include:

  • being 40 years of age or younger
  • being taller
  • smoking

PI is often a secondary diagnosis of PE.

People with PI may:

The chest pain is often due to inflammation of the thin lining between the lungs and the ribs.

Individuals with both PI and PE may have the following symptoms:

PI develops as a result of lung tissue not receiving sufficient amounts of oxygen. Most often, it is a complication of PE. However, it may also stem from other conditions, such as:

In individuals with sickle cell disease, sickled cells can clump together in vessels and obstruct blood flow. This may lead to infarction, particularly during episodes of acute chest syndrome.

Most PI cases affect one lung and are most common in the lower right lung. This may be due to the effect that gravity has on arterial and alveolar pressure.

Other causes of PI include:

Doctors will offer supportive treatment to manage symptoms of PI.

They will also treat the condition that has caused PI. For instance, if a person has PI as a complication of PE, a doctor will likely prescribe anticoagulants, or blood thinners, such as warfarin.

In some cases, they may recommend surgery.

In rare cases, tissue in the lungs will continue to die, and pockets of air will occur. This tissue will turn necrotic, or dead, due to a lack of blood flow and can lead to infection.

Research suggests that the mortality rate of people with PE and PI is similar to that of people with PE alone. A 30-day mortality rate of PE is 31%, and a mortality ratio of 10 years is 41%.

However, a 2018 retrospective review found that survival to discharge for PI was 97% for all participants. The review authors also note that survival rates as a whole are similar to uncomplicated PE.

The outlook for people with PI will depend on the underlying cause. Doctors will treat the cause of PI and provide supportive care to address any symptoms a person has with the condition.

Doctors may see signs of infarction for some time in imaging tools after a diagnosis. One retrospective review evaluated cases of 32 participants 1–69 weeks after diagnosis.

Of the 10 participants who had CT scans, all had ongoing indications of infarction for an average of 10 weeks after beginning treatment.

PI refers to the death of lung tissue resulting from a lack of blood supply. Typically, it is a complication of another health condition, most commonly PE. Other underlying conditions that may lead to PI include sickle cell disease and pneumonia.

Doctors treat PI by treating the underlying cause. In the case of embolism, this involves the use of anticoagulants.

The survival rates for people with PI are similar to uncomplicated PE.