Clinico-pathophysiological considerations in coronary microvascular disorders

Sarena La, Rosanna Tavella, Sivabaskari Pasupathy, John F. Beltrame

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Around half of the patients undergoing an elective coronary angiogram to investigate typical stable angina symptoms are found to have non-obstructive coronary arteries (defined as < 50% stenosis). These patients are younger with a female predilection. While underlying mechanisms responsible for these presentations are heterogeneous, structural and functional abnormalities of the coronary microvasculature are highly prevalent. Thus, coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMD) is increasingly recognised as an important consideration in patients with non-obstructive coronary arteries. This review will focus on primary coronary microvascular disorders and summarise the four common clinical presentation pictures which can be considered as endotypes - Microvascular Ischaemia (formerly "Syndrome X"), Microvascular Angina, Microvascular Spasm, and Coronary Slow Flow. Furthermore, the pathophysiological mechanisms associated with CMD are also heterogenous. CMD may arise from an increased microvascular resistance, impaired microvascular dilation, and/or inducible microvascular spasm, ultimately causing myocardial ischaemia and angina. Alternatively, chest pain may arise from hypersensitivity of myocardial pain receptors rather than myocardial ischaemia. These two major abnormalities should be considered when assessing an individual clinical picture, and ultimately, the question arises whether to target the heart or the pain perception to treat the anginal symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalVessel Plus
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Coronary microvascular dysfunction
  • coronary slow flow phenomenon
  • microvascular angina
  • microvascular spasm
  • non-obstructive coronary arteries
  • normal coronary angiography
  • syndrome X


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