Background: Coronary atherosclerotic-plaque thrombosis is a key event in the pathogenesis of unstable angina and myocardial infarction. Although plaque rupture or fissuring frequently occurs in atherosclerosis, only a small proportion of ruptured plaques develop thromboses.
Methods: Tissue-factor antigen and activity were measured in atherectomy samples from 50 consecutive patients with coronary artery disease (stable angina n = 19, unstable angina n = 24, and myocardial infarction n = 7).
Findings: Median tissue-factor antigen and activity concentrations were significantly higher in plaques from patients with unstable angina and myocardial infarction than in those from patients with stable angina (antigen: 66.1 pg/mg [interquartile range 43.8-82.5] vs 32.4 pg/mg [9.8-43.4], p = 0.0001; activity: 0.22 mU/mg [0.17-0.41] vs 0.13 mU/mg [0.05-0.16], p = 0.0004).
Interpretation: Tissue-factor, an initiator of the coagulation cascade, may account for the different thrombotic responses to the rupture of human coronary atherosclerotic plaques.