Invasive Assessment of Coronary Microcirculation: A State-of-the-Art Review

Diagnostics (Basel). 2023 Dec 30;14(1):86. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics14010086.


A significant proportion of patients presenting with signs and symptoms of myocardial ischemia have no "significant" epicardial disease; thereby, the assessment of coronary microcirculation gained an important role in improving diagnosis and guiding therapy. In fact, coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMD) could be found in a large proportion of these patients, supporting both symptoms and signs of myocardial ischemia. However, CMD represents a diagnostic challenge for two main reasons: (1) the small dimension of the coronary microvasculature prevents direct angiographic visualization, and (2) despite the availability of specific diagnostic tools, they remain invasive and underused in the current clinical practice. For these reasons, CMD remains underdiagnosed, and most of the patients remain with no specific treatment and quality-of-life-limiting symptoms. Of note, recent evidence suggests that a "full physiology" approach for the assessment of the whole coronary vasculature may offer a significant benefit in terms of symptom improvement among patients presenting with ischemia and non-obstructive coronary artery disease. We analyze the pathophysiology of coronary microvascular dysfunction, providing the readers with a guide for the invasive assessment of coronary microcirculation, together with the available evidence supporting its use in clinical practice.

Keywords: absolute coronary flow; coronary flow reserve; fractional flow reserve; index of microcirculatory resistance; microcirculatory reserve ratio; resistive reserve ratio.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.