Aim: Although coronary endothelial vasomotor dysfunction predicts future coronary events, there are few human studies showing the relationship between endothelial vasomotor dysfunction and atheroma plaque progression in the same coronary artery. This study examined whether endothelial vasomotor dysfunction is related to atheroma plaque progression in the infarct-related coronary artery of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) survivors using serial assessment of coronary plaque size with intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and coronary vasomotor responses to acetylcholine (ACh).
Methods: This study included 50 patients with a first acute STEMI due to occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) and successful reperfusion therapy with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). IVUS and vasomotor response to ACh in the LAD were measured within two weeks of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) (1st test) and repeated six months (2nd test) after AMI under optimal anti-atherosclerotic therapies.
Results: Percent atheroma volume (PAV) and total atheroma volume (TAV) in the LAD progressed over six months of follow-up in 18 and 14 patients, respectively. PAV and TAV progression was significantly associated with persistent impairment of epicardial coronary artery dilation and coronary blood flow increase in response to ACh at both the 1st and 2nd tests. PAV and TAV progression had no significant association with traditional risk factors, PCI-related variables, medications, and the coronary vasomotor responses to sodium nitroprusside, an endothelium-independent vasodilator.
Conclusions: Persistent impairment of endothelial vasomotor function in the conduit arterial segment and the resistance arteriole was related to atheromatous plaque progression in the infarct-related coronary arteries of STEMI survivors.
Keywords: Coronary atherosclerosis; Coronary endothelial function; Intravascular ultrasound; Myocardial infarction.