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Acute coronary syndrome is not a disease of heart !

Posted Dec 17 2010 11:35pm

Acute coronary syndrome  is primarily a disease of blood vessel , which perfuses  the heart.  It can even be a disorder of blood, often called vulnerable blood which predispose  for intra- coronary thrombus .

Mind you  , heart is an innocent bystander ! to the onslaught of  coronary atherosclerosis !

Hence , we  often use two terminologies .

CAD : Pure vascular (Coronary )  disease without  any structural and functional impairment of heart  ( No Angina, No myocardial damage ) Most of the asymptomatic plaques  , non flow limiting  lesions, incidentally detected by the modern coronary imaging gadgets  fall in this category.

When does  CAD becomes CAHD ?

CAHD : Coronary artery heart disease .Here not only the coronary artery is diseased , but it has it’s mission fulfilled   ie target organ either damaged structurally (STEMI, NSTEMI ) or functionally (EST positive , Chronic stable angina CSA )

Does the heart does any wrong to suffer from Acute coronary  syndrome  ?

No, it is simply not .The fault lies in one or more  of the following   .Generally at-least two these factors are enough to impede blood flow )  . They  combine to produce an ACS.

  • Blood defect
  • Vessel wall defect
  • Slowing of flow (Stasis)

This is called as Virchow’s triad   suggested over 100 years ago . Still valid in the era of per cutaneous  aortic valve implantation.

* The concept of de-linking  disorders of  coronary  vascular disease  from myocardial disease  is vital  in understanding the implications of current modalities of treatment. 

Even though we PCIs target the culprit ie blood vessel , it need to  realised , we  always fall short of real target . . .namely the heart . In coronary interventions  the catheters and wires roam around superficially over the heart  and they never even touch the heart .This is the reason PCIs are struggling to prove it’s  worthiness over medical therapy in many CAHD patients , which can reach deep  into the vessel, heart  and even every individual cells of heart.

Many (or . . . is it most ?)  Interventional  cardiologists have a bad  reputation for ” failing to look  look beyond the lesion” .  It is estimated  a vast  number  of cathlabs  and CABG theaters worldwide  are engaged in futile  attempt to restore coronary artery patency after a target organ damage is done .This is akin to building flyovers  to dead and closed highways .

Salvaging a coronary  artery and reliving a coronary obstruction is an entirely unrelated and futile  exercise to  a patient who has a problem  primarily in  musculature .

The much debated concept of  documenting  myocardial viability  , before revascularisation  died a premature death as the concept  by itself , was not viable commercially . (Viability studies   , tend to tie down the hands of device industry further , some  interventional   cardiologists began to see this concept  as an  interference to their freedom to adventure  )

Of-course , now  we have  other parameters  phenomenon  like  FFR estimation by Doppler , epicardial  -myocardial dissociation, slow  flow , no re-flow are  gaining importance.

Final message

ACS is primarily a disease of blood vessel but it’s impact is huge on heart. We need to look beyond the lesion .Restoring  a blood vessel  patency  to an ailing organ (Heart ) is not synonymous with total  cardiac intervention  and protection . There is lot more to cardiac physiology other than it’s blood flow. Heart muscle is a too complex organ to be controlled by few balloons and wires  which beat around the bush.


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