Atherosclerotic plaque rupture is a key event in the pathogenesis of acute coronary syndromes and during coronary interventions. Atherosclerotic plaque rupture does not always result in complete thrombotic occlusion of the entire epicardial coronary artery with subsequent acute myocardial infarction; however, in milder forms it may result in the embolization of atherosclerotic and thrombotic debris into the coronary microcirculation. The present report summarizes the available morphologic evidence for coronary microembolization in patients who died of coronary artery disease, especially sudden death. The report then goes on to address the experimental pathophysiology of coronary microembolization in animal models of acute coronary syndromes and heart failure. Finally, the report presents the available clinical evidence for coronary microembolization, highlights its key features--arrhythmias, contractile dysfunction, infarctlets and reduced coronary reserve--and addresses prevention by mechanical protection devices and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa antagonism.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company