Posts Tagged ‘ivus’

Cardiologists do magic inside the human coronary artery , that too in a  live beating heart , unlike the surgeons.Blocks are removed , holes are closed, valves are inserted ,  scars are burnt, new electrical connections  are laid .They do this with relative blind vision with good degree of success. Still, as we aim for more precise interventions we require excellent imaging  modalities to assist us.

In  PCI of CTO(Chronic total occlusion)   the critical element to know  is  the morphology of the  tissue plane , what  exactly  we burrow ?  as we navigate  through complex, often hard shapeless tortuous tissue tunnels  . Our patients will be  surprised to know we are currently doing this with our eyes shut. If only we have a camera guide in the tip of the wire it give us tremendous advantage .

CTO pathology

The CTO morphology .Image source : Kenichi Sakakura ,Eur Heart J. 2014 Jul 1;35(25):1683-93.

The exiting IVUS technology can only look sideways . Now a new vision is added by annular array of transducer at tip with CMOS sensor .The technology is just coming out it would be  use for us in the near future .

Anatomy of the forward looking ultrasonic eye

ivus forward loooking cto intervention


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In the early 1980s , when cardiac physicians were confronting how to tackle intra coronary thrombus , one man from Japan  was  looking directly at the ground zero with fiber-optic coronary angioscope .He  provided live images  of coronary plaques and thrombus (long before the IVUS and OCT era) because of technical difficulties it did not get into  clinical utility  but gave us vital information like plaque morphology and behavior.

  • The concept of red and white thrombus
  • The yellow lipid enriched vulnerable plaques
  • Post lytic  clot surface
  • The fibrin strands within the clot etc.

coronary angioscopy Yasumi Uchida

The angioscopes have now given way to IVUS and OCT which provide indirect vision of the coronary arteries .Uchida has written a book tilted coronary angioscaopy which is a must read for all clinical cardiologists.

I think Japanese are  leading in this aspect of cardiac Imaging .Yasunori Ueda is another person who has  done lot of work on angioscopy . here is an  Image from his paper. Exciting  stuff  is isn’t !

coronary angioscopy  Yasunori Ueda www.invasivecardiology

Image source : Yasunori Ueda http://www.invasivecardiology.com




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Laws of fluid dynamics dictate there is a pressure drop across   a point of narrowing  and recovery  thereafter  . At  recovery point if the vessel wall is weak it tends to balloon out .This is called post- stenotic dilatation .This is  the anatomical equivalent of Bernoulli or venturi  effect. This theoretically  occur only distal to obstruction .

How do you explain the common observation of pre- stenotic dilatation?

  • Intimal weakening due to disease process is the prime  suspect.
  • Pre stenotic  increment in mean pressure  also play a role .
  • Mechanical distention due to stagnated blood  proximal to  critical obstruction  is  a  logical explanation.
  • Finally and most importantly ,contagious , sub – angiographic  atherosclerosis.

How is  dilatation  different from ectasia ?

May be they are all related phenomenon. The definitions  of ectasia ,  dilatation, aneurysm are  more to do  with semantics than with academics.

Clinical and hemodynamic implication in cath lab

  • Sluggish  flow prone for thrombus
  • Stent selection errors likely
  • Stent dislodgment  and migration

Long term effects

  • In stent re-stenosis is more common if adjacent segment show dilatation.


Enlargement of vessel wall in both pre and post stenotic segments are possible . In small vessels pre- stenotic dilatation is  more common , while in large vessels post stenotic dilatation is  more prevalent .(Aorta, Pulmonary artery)  The mechanisms are slightly different. Apart from the lesion tightness ,  hemodynamic  and genetic factors are also responsible These dilatations are  often labeled as ectasia in coronary artery  and  most cardiologists  tend to   ignore this finding especially if  the margins are smooth.

But , newer imaging modalities like IVUS, OCT have given   better  insight about these dilatations.These   are  actually an  expression  of the  contagious  atherosclerosis .  Pre-  stenotic segments are prone for extensive disease  than even the diseased segment due to  more hemodynamic turbulence. There is some evidence atherosclerosis progresses  proximally more than distally.Smooth margins within the  pre -stenotic dilatation  does  not guarantee  disease free status.

During PCI  there could be  an  argument for covering the dilated  pre- and post stenotic segments  as well* . (We vouch for endovascular stenting when aorta is dilated why  do we hesitate  in coronary  ?)  .Careful selection of  coronary stent size  is  recommended  and  allowance should be given  for these two (Pre and post coronary dilatation ) patho -anatomic phenomenon.

* Stent missing a lesion is stylishly called geographical  miss ! This should logically include dilated segments also.

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First and foremost is

Avoid the procedure if  not really indicated.A lesion which  has more thrombus load  than a plaque and it is ,  subcritical and not limiting the flow  , PCI may be inappropriate  especially if the ACS is stabilised.

  • Adequate anticoagulation  along with  2b 3a blockers should be used
  • Predilatation should be minimally used or to avoided.Direct stenting preferred.
  • In primary PCI suction devices (Export etc may be useful)
  • Distal protective devices  are  “hyped up devices” rarely useful in an occasional patient with good distal vessel diameter.
  • Pseudo stent approximati(fig 1) may occur. A Layer of thrombus may get plastered between stent and the vessel wall.In the post PCI  phase , with intense anticoagulation and antiplatelet regimen this layer may get dissolved and stent  may lose it’s grip and may dislodge or migrate.Another possibility is the dead space  beneath the stent  becomes a potential site for future  thrombus and ACS.


Fig 1

  • To prevent this complication , high pressure inflations and Post procedure IVUS (Intra vascualr ultraound may be done to ascertain lack of thromus between stent/vessel wal  interface)
  • Drug eluting stent evoked a special concern , when used in thrombotic milleu.This , has now been  proven to be  safe

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Coronary angiogram is a video graphic  snap shot of coronary arterial lumen which is filled with radio opaque dye. This is some times called as coronary luminogram . It is a paradox , when we say normal coronary angiogram we can only mean  normal coronary lumen. But  generally, this can provide sufficient  information regarding the status of  coronary blood flow.There are three structured layers in coronary artery wall . Coronary angiogram  can not give any information about the status of the intima, media or adventia .

Lesions A to F may be totally missed by conventional coronary angiogram

Lesions A to F may be totally missed by conventional coronary angiogram

A patient with normal coronay angiogram can have diffuse  atheroscelrosis or  localised atherosclerosis within the media of coronary artery .Many times these atherosclerotic plaques grow outward into the adventia and fail to encroach upon the lumen to be detected by coronary angiogram. These plaques , even though has an hemodynamic advantage, in that it doesn’t block blood flow , has a serious risk for sudden rupture and result in an acute coronary syndrome.

So what is the message?

A normal coronary angiogram can never convey a meaning of normal coronary arteries.

A person who has a normal coronary angiogram has no guarantee that he won’t develop a coronary event in the near future.(But the the chances are very low)

If coronary angiogram has serious limitations  what is the next alternative ?

Intra vascular ultra sound imaging(IVUS) can give us an idea of the coronary arterial wall anatomy. This investigation , though available for clinical application is too complex for regular use.So , you  can’t subject every patient with normal CAG  to an IVUS  (Intra vascualar ultra sound) to confirm the normality. The best option is what we follow every day in our practice  .Tell your patients   with normal coronary angiogram , that they are likely to  have  normal coronary arteries  ! don’t add up to their anxiety by saying,  in spite of normal CAG  still they  can carry  gross atherosclerosis in their  arteries. Anxiety can precipitate an coronary event. Too much technical information to the patients  can be counter productive. Instead  advice regular life style modification,  blood pressure ,diabetes, lipid  control  etc .

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