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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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Research

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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Real Patient Stories

Dima’s story

March 3rd, 2021 was the day that changed everything. At 55, I had a busy counselling practice and a few other projects on the go. The pandemic was causing anxiety for many of my clients and in my private life. I had a lot of stress of my own: there were safety issues in the building where I lived, and I was looking for a new apartment. Despite this, I thought I was handling it well. I was fairly healthy, I walked daily, ate well, meditated and didn’t smoke or drink.

I started to experience heavy fatigue towards the end of 2020 but told myself it was normal considering all that was going on in the world.

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MaryAnn’s story

When I was 39, with zero risk factors for heart disease, I had all the classic symptoms associated with a heart attack. My doctors put me on three blood thinners to dissolve a clot in a minor artery seen in an angiogram. The next day, while the original clot had dissolved, I had a clot in a larger artery. Baffled, the cardiologists put in a stent. As they backed the scope out of the artery, it spasmed in another location.

At that time, I had a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 12-year-old. My husband traveled extensively for work. I asked myself two questions: 1) How do I feel about dying at age 39? 2) If I don’t die, how do I live?

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Sandra’s story

My story began in January 2010, while sitting at a traffic light returning to the office. I was working as a home health physical therapist. I began having chest pain out of nowhere. I got to my office and my boss, an RN, asked me if I was OK. I told her about the chest pain. By then it was starting to progress down my left arm. She took my blood pressure, normally 98/68. It was 140/90. She called my husband and told him to meet me at the ER. I drove myself there. They ran the normal tests and diagnosed me with costochondritis. Pain meds made the symptoms go away. The pain came back six times in the next 6 months. I asked for a cardiologist referral, but was denied, due to my age (39), lack of family history, and being in shape.

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