Pathogenesis and early management of non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes

Cardiol Clin. 2006 Feb;24(1):19-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ccl.2005.09.006.


NSTE ACS is a clinically significant problem. Endothelial dysfunction triggered by traditional cardiovascular risk factors (and perhaps by other as yet unidentified risks) in the susceptible host leads to the formation and development of atherosclerotic plaque. Inflammatory mediators and mechanical stresses contribute to plaque rupture by disrupting the protective fibrous cap. In about 25% of patients who have ACS, typically those who are younger, female, or smokers, plaque erosion seems to be the main underlying pathologic mechanism. Endothelial alteration, inflammation,or exposure of the lipid core results in the release of TF, vWF, and PAF. The release of these factors leads to platelet activation and aggregation as well as to the formation of a fibrin clot, resulting in arterial thrombosis that occludes the vessel. A variety of factors, including circulating catecholamines, LDL levels, blood glucose levels, and systemic thrombogenic factors, can affect the extent and stability of the thrombus, thereby determining whether the occlusion is complete and fixed, labile and nonocclusive (NSTE ACS),or clinically silent resulting in a mural thrombus and plaque growth. The acute treatment of NSTEACS is directed at interrupting the prothrombotic environment surrounding the ruptured plaque; thus, antiplatelet agents such as aspirin, clopidogrel, and glycoprotein IIb/IIla receptor antagonists,as well as anticoagulants such as heparin, are the mainstays of early therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Coronary Artery Disease / complications*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardial Revascularization / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome