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Pathophysiology of Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction

Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is commonly recognized as the consequence of coronary atherosclerosis and obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD). However, a significant number of patients may present angina or myocardial infarction even in the absence of any significant coronary artery stenosis and impairment of the coronary microcirculation has been increasingly implicated as a relevant cause of IHD.

The term “coronary microvascular dysfunction” (CMD) encompasses several pathogenic mechanisms resulting in functional and/or structural changes in the coronary microcirculation and determining angina and myocardial ischemia in patients with angina without obstructive CAD (“primary” microvascular angina), as well as in several other conditions, including obstructive CAD, cardiomyopathies, Takotsubo syndrome and heart failure, especially the phenotype with preserved ejection fraction.

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Insights to advance our management of myocardial ischemia: From obstructive...

The Coronary Vasomotor Disorders International Study Group (COVADIS) invited leading experts to address strategies to enhance our clinical understanding of INOCA with an emphasis on the management of coronary vasomotor disorders.

Under-recognition of coronary vasomotor disorders, distinguishing different presentations of angina due to vasospasm and/or abnormal microvascular vasodilatation, developing invasive/non-invasive testing and treatment protocols, integrating diagnostic protocols into cardiologists’ workflow and trials to inform guideline development were identified as key knowledge gaps and will be briefly addressed in this Viewpoint article.

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Research

The Role of Mental Stress in Ischaemia with No Obstructive...

Ischaemic heart disease has been estimated to affect 126.5 million people globally. Approximately 70% of patients with angina and suspected myocardial ischaemia show no signs of obstructed coronary arteries after coronary angiography, but may still demonstrate ischaemia. Ischaemia with no obstructive coronary artery disease (INOCA) is increasingly acknowledged as a serious condition because of its association with poor quality of life and elevated risk for cardiovascular events.

The negative effects of psychological stress on INOCA are gaining more attention. Psychological stress is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes such as mental stress-induced myocardial ischaemia. Psychological stress includes anxiety, depression, anger and personality disturbances.

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News

Patient perspectives: how a quest for better recognition and care...

Around 40% of all patients undergoing angiography are found to have normal coronary arteries or non-obstructive coronary artery disease (NOCAD). This often results in ongoing issues in accessing effective care and treatment. Four women confronted with inconsistent medical advice decided to take matters into their own hands by forming a patient group to bridge the knowledge gap.

The International Heart Spasms Alliance (IHSA) was officially set up in 2021 by Terri Shumaker, a single mother of two in the United States, Cindy McCall, an Australian nurse, Sarah Brown, a retired British midwife, and American Annette Pompa. It aims to advocate for people with heart conditions that are frequently undiagnosed/misdiagnosed and misunderstood by both patients and clinicians.

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Research

Untangling the pathophysiologic link between coronary microvascular dysfunction and heart...

Coronary microvascular disease (CMD), characterized by impaired coronary flow reserve (CFR), is a common finding in patients with stable angina. Impaired CFR, in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease, is also present in up to 75% of patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is a heterogeneous syndrome comprising distinct endotypes and it has been hypothesized that CMD lies at the centre of the pathogenesis of one such entity: the CMD–HFpEF endotype. This article provides a contemporary review of the pathophysiology underlying CMD, with a focus on the mechanistic link between CMD and HFpEF.

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News

Improving the Diagnosis of Heart Disease in Women

Dr. Shah’s team is studying 100 women over two years who get referred for coronary angiography to Yale New Haven Hospital and comparing outcomes for patients who receive the standard care with those undergoing the cutting-edge tests to detect coronary microvascular disease or vasospasm. His goal is to show the value of the new tests, already covered by insurance, so they become the standard of care for patients — mostly women — who have reduced blood flow to the heart but no obstruction.

Dr. Samit Shah has seen it too often. Women come to a hospital Emergency Department or doctor’s office complaining of chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, jaw pain, or other symptoms considered concerning for a heart problem. The women might undergo standard testing to see if they have a critical cholesterol blockage in their arteries, the hallmark of obstructive coronary artery disease.

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Research

What an Interventionalist Needs to Know About MI with Non-obstructive...

MI with non-obstructive coronary arteries (MINOCA) is caused by a heterogeneous group of vascular or myocardial disorders. MINOCA occurs in 5–15% of patients presenting with acute ST-segment elevation MI or non-ST segment elevation MI and prognosis is impaired.

The diagnosis of MINOCA is made during coronary angiography following acute MI, where there is no stenosis ≥50% present in an infarct-related epicardial artery and no overt systemic aetiology for the presentation. Accurate diagnosis and subsequent management require the appropriate utilisation of intravascular imaging, coronary function testing and subsequent imaging to assess for myocardial disorders without coronary involvement.

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Research

Microvascular Angina: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment

In patients with angina symptoms but with no coronary artery disease, as revealed by normal or near-normal coronary angiogram, a potential diagnosis of microvascular angina (MVA) might be considered.

This review examines the evidence on long-term prognosis, state-of-the-art assessment and treatment strategies, and the overwhelming need for standardisation of diagnostic pathways in this patient population. The rising clinical relevance of MVA is explored along with how the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease on coronary angiography may not be a guarantee of benign prognosis in this patient subgroup.

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Research

1-Year Outcomes of Angina Management Guided by Invasive Coronary Function...

The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that invasive coronary function testing at time of angiography could help stratify management of angina patients without obstructive coronary artery disease. Medical therapy for angina guided by invasive coronary vascular function testing holds promise, but the longer-term effects on quality of life and clinical events are unknown among patients without obstructive disease.

A total of 151 patients with angina with symptoms and/or signs of ischemia and no obstructive coronary artery disease were randomized to stratified medical therapy guided by an interventional diagnostic procedure versus standard care (control group with blinded interventional diagnostic procedure results).

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Research

How to Diagnose and Manage Angina Without Obstructive Coronary Artery...

Patients with symptoms and/or signs of ischaemia but no obstructive coronary artery disease (INOCA) present a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. Microvascular and/or vasospastic angina are the two most common causes of INOCA; however, invasive coronary angiography lacks the sensitivity to diagnose these functional coronary disorders.

In this article, the authors summarise the rationale for invasive testing in the absence of obstructive coronary disease, namely that correct treatment for angina patients starts with the correct diagnosis. They provide insights from the CORonary MICrovascular Angina (CorMicA) study, where an interventional diagnostic procedure was performed with linked medical therapy to improve patient health.

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Around The World

Real Patient Stories

Arthur’s story

My name is Arthur. I am a Scot but have lived in London for nearly forty years.

In 2014, I had my first heart attack. In the following six years, I went to A&E at least twice a year. Every time, I was sent home and was told it was reflux.

My own doctor in about 2015/16 put me on half an angina pill. When I was in hospital, I was told by the cardiology doctors that I did not need it as I never had angina at all.

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Barbara’s story

I am a 62-year-old retired physician. My story began at age 47.

I was a very busy practicing OB/Gyn physician who was otherwise healthy.

I was on call at the hospital, and it was turning out to be one of the busiest days I had ever experienced as a physician. I was in a medical group that took call for 24 hours straight, most of the time working the entire 24 hours.

Halfway through that 24-hour call, I was in the operating room doing a C/Section on a patient. Halfway through the surgery I began to feel crushing chest pain.

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Charlotte’s story

While at work in September 2014, I lost vision of my left eye and had terrible feeling of “heat” all over the left side of my body.

The ER ophthalmologist directed me to cardiology for a vascular problem.

A week later, I could not walk 100 meters (325 feet) without crushing chest pain and shortness of breath.

I was no longer functional. Making my bed was all I could do in a whole day. I was no longer an active 54-year-old.

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