Anyone who hears the word "heart attack" immediately thinks of a heart attack. No wonder, because around 280, 000 people in Germany suffer an acute heart attack every year. For 80, 000 of them, any help comes too late. Thus, heart attack and cardiovascular diseases are still in the first place of death statistics in Germany. Less well known, however, is that all other organs can also suffer from an infarct.
Vascular damage as a cause
The principle underlying this disorder is always the same - regardless of which organ is affected. A vessel that supplies the appropriate organ is blocked. The underlying tissue can no longer be supplied with oxygen and dies. The dead tissue scarred, waste products of this entire "conversion process" must be transported away from the body and disposed of.
The vascular blockage, which triggers an organ myocardium, is usually a blood clot that has formed on the vessel wall and is then torn off with the bloodstream and transported on. Where it gets stuck, it leads to a blockage of the vessel. To such clots - also called thrombi - it comes when the actually smooth walls of the vessels are roughened by deposits.
When the vessels get tighter and tighter ...
The primary cause of deposition on the vessel walls is atherosclerosis, where cholesterol deposits lead to narrowing of the vessels. This disease initially affects the entire vascular system, although constrictions in the heart disease vessels are particularly common.
Nevertheless, thrombi can form in all parts of the body in the vascular system. Thus, strokes as well as heart attacks are triggered by acute vascular occlusions. The number of stroke patients is just as alarming as that of heart attack patients: In Germany, around 200, 000 people suffer a stroke each year, which ends in death or permanent disability for 70, 000.
Diabetics are particularly at risk
Vascular damage is the most significant late consequence of diabetes mellitus, diabetes. In fact, organ failure is the leading cause of death among diabetics, who often have problems with subsequent healing as a high-risk group due to their overall poor circulation. In them infarcted tissue can be degraded and transported away worse.
Even those who belong to the risk-clientele of the so-called "metabolic syndrome", which includes not only diabetes but also high blood pressure and lipid metabolism disorders, are at risk as an organ infarct.
Eye infarctions increase
In addition to the heart, kidney, spleen or liver, the eyes may experience an infarction. An ocular infarction is the formation of a blood clot (thrombosis) in the ophthalmic artery, which clogs the vessels behind it. The affected person suddenly sees nothing in one eye or only one more spot. Often the vision on the diseased eye is completely clouded.
If an eye infarct occurs, an ophthalmologist or, even better, an ophthalmology clinic should be consulted as soon as possible - within 20 hours otherwise the chances of recovery will fall rapidly. Although eye damage can be reduced by laser or acupuncture, in most cases visual impairment is maintained. At the University of Freiburg, a new procedure has been tested in which the arterial occlusion - similar to the occlusion of the coronary arteries - is resolved.
The procedure lasts 1-2 hours and is performed under local anesthesia in the inguinal region. General anesthesia is not necessary because there are no nerve fibers on the inner walls of the vessel and the patient feels no pain when laying the catheter. The catheter is inserted through the groin artery and then slides through the main artery into the carotid artery. From here, the ophthalmic artery branches off. Then the surgeon must follow the almost right-angled branching into the ophthalmic artery. The path of the catheter is tracked on the screen.
When the doctor reaches the site of the vascular occlusion with the catheter, he injects the drug that dissolves the blood clot. It comes highly concentrated directly to the location of the shutter. This is the advantage over the conventional method, in which the drug distributed through the arm vein in the body and greatly diluted and thus often arrived ineffective at the closure site.
Precaution and control
An eye attack usually affects only one eye. It is therefore all the more important to protect the second eye from an infarct. For this purpose, the exact causes of the first infarction must be determined and any risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes are clarified. Regular ophthalmological checks are also part of the program. Basically, everyone who is considered a risk patient for cardiovascular disease, also carries the risk of eye infarction.
Prevention in advance
The prevention of cardiovascular disease is therefore an urgent task not only for each individual, but also for the national health service. Just as health politicians and physicians are seeking more education and successful prevention programs, researchers are seeking ways to prevent vascular damage.
One approach is the discovery that the body's own hormone erythropoietin (EPO) not only promotes blood formation, but also helps repair injured blood vessels. Genetically engineered EPO could then be used for treatment. At the Hannover Medical School, it is currently being investigated to what extent erytrhopoetin can also be used in the treatment of an acute stroke. Initial results indicate that EPO significantly reduces the risk of neurological deficits.