Myocardial infarct expansion, infarct extension, and reinfarction: pathophysiologic concepts

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. Sep-Oct 1987;30(2):73-110. doi: 10.1016/0033-0620(87)90004-1.


Infarct expansion and infarct extension are events early in the course of myocardial infarction with serious short- and long-term consequences. Infarct expansion, disproportionate thinning, and dilatation of the infarct segment probably begin within hours of acute infarction and usually reach peak extent within seven to 14 days. Clinical data suggest that infarct expansion occurs in approximately 35% to 45% of anterior transmural myocardial infarctions and to a lesser extent in infarctions at other sites. Although expansion usually develops in large infarcts, the extent of transmural necrosis rather than absolute infarct size predicts its occurrence. Expansion has an adverse effect on infarct structure and function for several reasons. Functional infarct size is increased because of infarct segment lengthening, and expansion results in over-all ventricular dilatation. Thus, patients with expansion of an infarct have poorer exercise tolerance, more congestive heart failure symptoms, and greater early and late mortality than those without expansion. Infarct rupture and late aneurysm formation are two additional structural consequences of infarct expansion. Experimental and clinical data suggest that the incidence and severity of expansion can be modified by interventions. Increased ventricular loading conditions and steroidal and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents make expansion more severe. Reperfusion of the infarct segment and pharmacologic interventions that decrease ventricular afterload lessen the severity of expansion. Previous myocardial infarction and preexisting ventricular hypertrophy may also limit the development of infarct expansion. Infarct extension is defined clinically as early in-hospital reinfarction after a myocardial infarction. The pathologic finding of infarct extension is necrotic and healing myocardium of several different recent ages within the same vascular territory. Although this pathologic criterion usually cannot be verified, studies employing invasive and noninvasive assessment of patients with early reinfarction provide evidence that the new myocardial injury is usually in the same vascular risk region as the original infarction. A variety of different criteria have been applied in the clinical diagnosis of infarct extension, and this has resulted in a large range of estimated frequencies from under 10% to as high as 86%. High estimates are found in studies using one or two nonspecific criteria such as ST segment shift or reelevation of total CK. The lowest rates have been found when combinations of criteria are used.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Dipyridamole / therapeutic use
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / pathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Sulfinpyrazone / therapeutic use


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Anticoagulants
  • Dipyridamole
  • Cholesterol
  • Aspirin
  • Sulfinpyrazone