Tag: ischemic heart disease


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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Testing for Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction

The small blood vessels in the heart, called the coronary microvasculature, carry most of the blood flow to the heart muscle, delivering oxygen. These blood vessels can become unhealthy when there is damage to their inner lining. There can also be plaque buildup in the larger coronary arteries that does not narrow them but can contribute to abnormal blood flow.

Over time, this leads to abnormal widening or narrowing of the small vessels in response to exercise or stress, which can cause problems with the blood supply to the heart, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, and heart failure.

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Reappraisal of Ischemic Heart Disease

In recent years, it has become apparent that coronary microvascular dysfunction plays a pivotal pathogenic role in angina pectoris. Functional and structural mechanisms can affect the physiological function of the coronary microvasculature and lead to myocardial ischemia in people without coronary atheromatous disease and also in individuals with obstructive coronary artery disease.

Abnormal dilatory responses of the coronary microvessels, coronary microvascular spasm, and extravascular compressive forces have been identified as pathogenic mechanisms in both chronic and acute forms of ischemic heart disease.

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Myocardial ischemia: From disease to syndrome

Although current guidelines on the management of stable coronary artery disease acknowledge that multiple mechanisms may precipitate myocardial ischemia, recommended diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic algorithms are still focused on obstructive epicardial atherosclerotic lesions, and little progress has been made in identifying management strategies for non-atherosclerotic causes of myocardial ischemia.

The purpose of this consensus paper is three-fold: 1) to marshal scientific evidence that obstructive atherosclerosis can co-exist with other mechanisms of ischemic heart disease (IHD); 2) to explore how the awareness of multiple precipitating mechanisms could impact on pre-test probability, provocative test results and treatment strategies; and 3) to stimulate a more comprehensive approach to chronic myocardial ischemic syndromes, consistent with the new understanding of this condition.

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Assessment of Vascular Dysfunction in Patients Without Obstructive Coronary Artery...

Ischemic heart disease secondary to coronary vascular dysfunction causes angina and impairs quality of life and prognosis. About one-half of patients with symptoms and signs of ischemia turn out not to have obstructive coronary artery disease, and coronary vascular dysfunction may be relevant.

Adjunctive tests of coronary vasomotion include guidewire-based techniques with adenosine and reactivity testing, typically by intracoronary infusion of acetylcholine. The CorMicA (Coronary Microvascular Angina) trial provided evidence that routine management guided by an interventional diagnostic procedure and stratified therapy improves angina and quality of life in patients with angina but no obstructive coronary artery disease.

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The Who, What, Why, When, How and Where of Vasospastic...

Ischemic heart disease involves both “structural” and/or “functional” disorders of the coronary circulation. Structural atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD) is well recognized, with established diagnostic and treatment strategies. In contrast, “functional CAD” has received limited attention and is seldom actively pursued in the investigation of ischemic heart disease.

Vasospastic angina encompasses “functional CAD” attributable to coronary artery spasm and this “state of the art” consensus statement reviews contemporary aspects of this disorder.

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Around The World

Real Patient Stories

Lynn’s story

I had my first spasm when I was just a young child and continued for almost 50 years with no diagnosis. I always assumed everybody had flushing feelings throughout their body, and hot flashes accompanied by chest pain.

It wasn’t until I was walking my dogs with my sister, one day, and we were going up a steep incline and I couldn’t keep up. I asked her if she felt chest pains when she walked up hills. She looked at me like I was crazy and told me: No!

I then realized something might be wrong with me.

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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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