most frequent cause of diminished coronary blood flow is atherosclerosis. The atherosclerotic process is discussed in connection with lipid metabolism in Chapter 68. Briefly, this process is the following.
In people who have genetic predisposition to atherosclerosis, or in people who eat excessive quantities of cholesterol and have a sedentary lifestyle, large quantities of cholesterol gradually become deposited beneath the endothelium at many points in arteries throughout the body. Gradually, these areas of deposit are invaded by fibrous tissue and frequently become calcified. The net result is the development of atherosclerotic plaques that actually protrude into the vessel lumens and either block or partially block blood flow. A common site for development of atherosclerotic plaques is the first few centimeters of the major coronary arteries.
Acute occlusion of a coronary artery most frequently occurs in a person who already has underlying atherosclerotic coronary heart disease but almost never in a person with a normal coronary circulation. Acute occlusion can result from any one of several effects, two of which are the following: 1. The atherosclerotic plaque can cause a local blood clot called a thrombus, which in turn occludes the artery. The thrombus usually occurs where the arteriosclerotic plaque has broken through the endothelium, thus coming in direct contact with the flowing blood. Because the plaque presents an unsmooth surface, blood platelets adhere to it, fibrin is deposited, and red blood cells become entrapped to form a blood clot that grows until it occludes the vessel. Or, occasionally, the clot breaks away from its attachment on the atherosclerotic plaque and flows to a more peripheral branch of the coronary arterial tree, where it blocks the artery at that point. A thrombus that flows along the artery in this way and occludes the vessel more distally is called a coronary embolus. 2. Many clinicians believe that local muscular spasm of a coronary artery also can occur. The spasm might result from direct irritation of the smooth muscle of the arterial wall by the edges of an arteriosclerotic plaque, or it might result from local nervous reflexes that cause excess coronary vascular wall contraction. The spasm may then lead to secondary thrombosis of the vessel.
Was this article helpful?