Objectives: This study was designed to define and contrast the mechanisms of lumen enlargement from coronary balloon angioplasty and directional coronary atherectomy using intracoronary ultrasound imaging in vivo.
Background: The mechanisms of lumen enlargement produced by percutaneous transluminal coronary balloon angioplasty and directional coronary atherectomy are not known because the coronary artery wall has not previously been studied both before and after dilation.
Methods: We used intracoronary ultrasound to quantitate coronary lumen, vessel and plaque area both before and immediately after successful coronary angioplasty (n = 30) and directional coronary atherectomy (n = 25) at the site of most severe stenosis.
Results: Angioplasty increased lumen area by 2.80 +/- 0.25 mm2 (mean +/- SE, p < 0.0001). Eighty-one percent of this lumen gain resulted from an increase in vessel area and the remaining 19% from a reduction in plaque area. Lumen gain of individual lesions was separated into three groups: 67% had an increase in vessel area (vessel expansion), 13% had a decrease in plaque area and 20% had a combination of both. In contrast, vessel expansion contributed only 22% of the lumen gain with directional coronary atherectomy, with the majority (78%) of increase in lumen size coming from a reduction in plaque area. Directional coronary atherectomy increased lumen area from 2.36 +/- 0.05 to 7.00 +/- 0.28 mm2 (p < 0.0001). Plaque reduction was the sole mechanism in 60% of lesions, vessel expansion was the sole mechanism in 12% and a combination of both mechanisms occurred in 28%. Lumen enlargement of eccentric lesions treated with directional coronary atherectomy was more commonly associated with plaque reduction (p < 0.02), whereas eccentricity did not affect the mechanism of lumen enlargement with coronary angioplasty.
Conclusions: This is the first study to systematically examine the coronary artery wall in vivo at the site of a severe stenosis both before and after catheter-based interventions in humans. Lumen enlargement from coronary angioplasty occurs predominantly from vessel expansion or stretching, although a reduction in plaque area contributes to the lumen gain in many patients and is the sole mechanism in a few. Lumen gain from directional coronary atherectomy is predominantly from reduction in plaque area (probably owing to tissue removal), although vessel stretching (balloon effect) occurs and is the sole mechanism in a small minority of vessels. Plaque reduction is more common in directional coronary atherectomy of eccentric lesions.