What does Ischemia mean in healthcare?

Ischemia happens when there is insufficient blood flow to the tissues of the body, and therefore an insufficient flow of oxygen. Common causes of ischemia include plaque build-up in the arteries and blood clots.

In healthcare, ischemia is often used to refer to a heart attack or stroke, both of which can be life-threatening conditions. A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is when the blood and oxygen supply to the heart is cut off. A stroke, also known as a cerebral vascular accident (CVA), is when the blood and oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. Ischemia can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the legs (peripheral artery disease) or intestines (mesenteric artery disease).

Why is Ischemia important to understand in healthcare?

Prompt treatment of ischemia is essential in preventing permanent tissue damage or death. Without adequate blood flow, tissues are unable to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly. In some cases, ischemia may lead to the formation of a clot, which can further block blood flow. If left untreated, ischemia can lead to tissue death (necrosis), organ failure (which requires treatment in an intensive care unit), and even death. Early diagnosis and treatment of ischemia are, therefore, essential in preventing serious complications.