Blausen Medical
Blausen Medical

Blausen Medical

Medically accurate and informative 3D animations



The heart is the primary organ of the cardiovascular system. It is a beating muscle that continually pumps blood to the rest of the body. The coronary arteries supply the heart itself with the necessary oxygen and nutrients it needs to function effectively. Red blood cells, white blood cells and other substances flow freely to the heart and other parts of the body. In a healthy person, the walls of the artery are smooth and uniform in thickness. Over time, however, a high level of circulating cholesterol can cause fatty deposits, called plaque, to accumulate. As plaque is deposited, it can harden and cause the artery to become narrowed and less flexible, a condition called atherosclerosis. If atherosclerosis develops in the coronary arteries, the condition is called coronary artery disease, or CAD. If blood flow is severely interrupted, a myocardial infarction can occur. A myocardial infarction, or MI, is another term for heart attack. If blockage of a coronary artery exceeds 70 percent, the risk is increased for experiencing a heart attack; the risk is almost certain when plaque completely blocks a coronary artery. Another way CAD can increase the risk for a heart attack is by the development of a blood clot. Oftentimes a crack can develop at the site of plaque buildup. When this happens, blood can coagulate, or clump together, at the site of the crack, or a blood clot, called a thrombus, can grow in size until it completely blocks blood flow. The extent of damage sustained by the heart during a heart attack depends on the severity and location of the blockage, and the speed at which medical treatment is received. One way to treat a heart attack is to destroy the thrombus, which is made up of a mass of platelets, red blood cells, and strands of connected fibrin. The fibrin is the net that holds the entire clot together. In order to destroy the blood clot, the fibrin net has to be broken down. Normally, the body produces an enzyme called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to break down blood clots as part of the body’s regular function. It is also used by doctors as a therapy tool in order to target specific dangerous clots, such as one that is causing a heart attack, to break them down faster. tPA binds to plasminogen on the surface of the fibrin network. Plasminogen is cleaved into plasmin, which activates it. It snips the fibrin molecules and creates holes in the net that holds the clot together. This causes the clot to dissolve and clears the vessel so that blood can flow through it again. Even though blood flow is restored, there may still be some damage to the surrounding area.

Duration: 03:11
Licence: CC - Attribution
Original Language: English
Published: 6/29/2018
Diseases and Conditions: Blood Clots / Myocardial Infarction
Format: 3D Animation

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