Definition and epidemiology of coronary microvascular disease

J Nucl Cardiol. 2022 Aug;29(4):1763-1775. doi: 10.1007/s12350-022-02974-x. Epub 2022 May 9.


Ischemic heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. However, most patients referred for a noninvasive computed tomography coronary angiogram (CTA) or invasive coronary angiogram for the investigation of angina do not have obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD). Approximately two in five referred patients have coronary microvascular disease (CMD) as a primary diagnosis and, in addition, CMD also associates with CAD and myocardial disease (dual pathology). CMD underpins excess morbidity, impaired quality of life, significant health resource utilization, and adverse cardiovascular events. However, CMD often passes undiagnosed and the onward management of these patients is uncertain and heterogeneous. International standardized diagnostic criteria allow for the accurate diagnosis of CMD, ensuring an often overlooked patient population can be diagnosed and stratified for targeted medical therapy. Key to this is assessing coronary microvascular function-including coronary flow reserve, coronary microvascular resistance, and coronary microvascular spasm. This can be done by invasive methods (intracoronary temperature-pressure wire, intracoronary Doppler flow-pressure wire, intracoronary provocation testing) and non-invasive methods [positron emission tomography (PET), cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR), transthoracic Doppler echocardiography (TTDE), cardiac computed tomography (CT)]. Coronary CTA is insensitive for CMD. Functional coronary angiography represents the combination of CAD imaging and invasive diagnostic procedures.

Keywords: Ischemic heart disease; imaging; ischemia; microvascular angina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Angiography / methods
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / epidemiology
  • Coronary Circulation
  • Coronary Vasospasm*
  • Coronary Vessels
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation
  • Microvascular Angina* / diagnosis
  • Microvascular Angina* / therapy
  • Quality of Life