Posts Tagged ‘left main disese’


Scientifically ,  the  indication for coronary revascularisation   should be  based on following

  1. Patient’s  symptom ( more specifically angina , dyspnea is less important !)
  2. Prov0kable  ischemia  ( A significantly positive stress test )
  3. Signifcant LV dysfunction with  documented  viable myocardium &  residual ischemia
  4. A revascularisation eligible coronary anatomy * TVD/Left main/Proximal LAD etc ( *Either 1, 2 or 3 should be  present  in addition )
  5. All emergency PCI during STEMI /High risk NSTEMI

Practically ,

A CAD  patient  may fulfill  “Any of the above 5 or  “None of the above 5” ,  but ,  if   a coronary obstruction  was  revealed  by coronary angiogram  and if he  fulfils The 6th criteria , he becomes  eligible for  revascualrisation

6th criteria

If the patient has  enough monetary   resources (by self  ) or by  an  insurance company  to take care of PCI /CABG *

*The sixth  criteria overrides all other criteria in many of the cath labs .Of course , there are few genuine ones still  fighting hard , to keep the commerce out ,  from contaminating cardiology !

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CABG is tretment of choice for left main and  complex proximal LAD  lesions. So most patients get CABG in these situations.

The hemodynamic effects of LIMA graft on native left coronary artery can be tremendous and some times deterimental.

  • One of the consistent observation has been , the moment LIMA is bypasssed into distal LAD the antegrade flow through left main is reduced .This is still more significant if circumflex is also grafted .
  • For inital few weeks there is competition between LIMA flow and LAD flow and invariably LIMA wins  , and native leftmain or LAD  flow regresses and many times  closes totally.
  • Some studies have observed accelerated left main and LAD atherosclerosis.
  • The native LAD and leftmain could be a source for thrombi and atheromatous debri and these migrate distally and have potential to block the LIMA entry point  into LAD
  • The advantage of having a patent native left main and LAD  is that if the LIMA  graft occludes later on native circulation may assist.

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Why PCI  in   left main CAD is considered  an inferior modality than CABG ?

CABG is superior to PCI for the  simple reason it provides complete revascularisation virtually in all  patients with LMCAD , while PCI is possible only in a fraction of patients with LMCAD.

If  we take 100 patients  with left main  disease may be ten (At best !)   would be  suitable for PCI ! In other words PCI is contraindicated in vast majority of LMCAD  by technical criteria alone , while there can never be a contraindication for CABG in patients with LMCAD.(Except  when , comorbidity precludes surgery )

Why  PCI in  LMCAD difficult ?

It is  dependent on  technicalities

CABG does not tackle a lesion,  it simply avoids it  and by passes it ” No great brains required”

while PCI takes on the plaque frontally ,  in the dangerous  terrain of  left main artery  itself !

so,  much caution,  planing ,  logistics are required . Further ,  if there is a complication there is a potential

for catastrophe  as the only  supply line is cut off . This is the reason , cardiologists were worried to try this on

unprotected left main. (Protected LMCAD refers to left main disease following CABG  wherein atleast   LAD or LCX is  grafted )

Points to ponder in LMCAD

  • PCI is suited for isolated discrete LM disease.In realty  this is seen in less  than 5-8 % CAD.
  • LMCAD is very often associated  with  critical and multivessel distal CAD . So these patients will be candidates for CABG.
  • Left main ostium or LAD ostial  involvement makes PCI a tougher exercise
  • Calcification is more common in LMCAD that  again makes PCI difficult.

The following article in Feb 2009 is a major blow for proponents of  PCI for left main




Final message

  • Conquering left main disease is an interventionist’s  ultimate dream.
  • But, before that they have  to tackle the bifurcation lesions .This is of vital importance, because 2/3 rd of left main  patients have  some form of bifurcation lesions. Current techniques , hardware  and outcomes are far below the idealistic solutions in bifurcation lesions.
  • Till that time ,  CABG would  remain the only choice for all , but for  a small fraction of isolated  left main disease where PCI may be possible.

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Left main coronary artery disease (LMCAD) often evokes  a panic reaction  among cardiologists .Not every LMD deserve that re. To  label  it as  significant, we have a criteria ,  that is 50% diameter stenosis.  So what you do , for a tapering  or narrowed left main with 40% stenosis. Isolated insignificant left main is rare *, but real incidence is not known.  LMCAD  is  most often due to  , atherosclerosis of left main coronary artery without limiting the flow.

What are the options ?

  • Leave it alone, with intensive medical management assisted by high dose statin(80mg)
  • Elective PCI with stenting , even though the lesion is not significant.

*If associated LAD  or LCX is there decision making is easier .

How  significant is a coronary stenosis ?

The significance of a coronary lesion with reference to “lumen diameter obstruction” is basically flawed. The significance of a coronary stenosis, by tradition is  based on it’s hemodynamic impact ,right from the  CASS days in early seventies.Unfortunately our mind set has not changed even after realising    non obstructive – sub critical lesion is more prone for acute coronary syndrome.  Is it not ironical to call a  40% lesion a non significant one !

So, the  significance of coronary stenosis is two fold.

  1. Hemodynamic  significance
  2. Clinical and  pathologic significance

The former predisposes to often chronic stable angina, later likely to result in ACS.

How will you approach a apparently insignificant left main disease ?

A 40 % lesion in left main is hemodynamically not significant , but pathologically very significant.It needs intensive treatment. Plaque passification with medical approach is first choice.If the lesion morphology is eccentric,  has irregular margins or involves  LAD  or LCX ostium doing a PCI or even a CABG is to be considered in spite of the lesion is  hemodynamically insignificant .

Why , PCI is   considered  “not appropriate”  for   less tighter lesions , even though these lesions  have great clinical significance ?

The answer is simple, The risks  and the  potential cost are more than the benefit !

And further ,  stents are  not innocuous devices  either  , they  always carry a risk of sudden occlusion as like  a sub critical lesion  !

Answer to the title question

True incidence is not known . Our experince (Class 1 c evidence) would suggest Left main disease constitutes up to 10 % of CAD.Among this one third would be hemodynamically insignificant

Suggested reading

Handbook of Left Main Stem Disease

edited by Seung-Jung Park



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                                                          Left main coronary  lesions are  fairly common  during routine coronary angiogram.These may be a critical or a innocuous lesion.The  word “left main” triggers a sort of alarm reaction to many cath lab staff as well as the cardiologists and surgeon.Many times, these left main lesions are detected in patients   with chronic stable angina who have stable symptoms. Left main disese has not been graded  clearly in literature . Often it is perceived , any lesion in LM is serious.

There is an unwritten rule,  rather a medical compulsion  to take a patient  with left main disease  for emergency CABG ( Now some centres ,emergency PCI) .Some institutions make it  a rule these patients  are posted  in the  next available slot in the theatre.

 The basic question we raise here is   “Should we consider all  left main  disease  as  an  emergency”?

Not really , especially when it occurs in a stable angina .One can wait , buy some time to fully evaluate and prepare  the patient  and may be the patient can be posted  as an elective case. It is a well recognised fact that, CABG carries adverse outcome when done as an emergency procedure. This is primarily due to inadequate pre op work up and resultant complications. It is also well known ,  surgical  back up team may not be available in full strength in odd hours .

This post is  to convey the message , that left main is  a serious disease but that doesn’t  mean it should elicit  a panic reaction and be taken as an ultra emergency . There has been many morbid and fatal outcomes in many hospitals due to this apparent  pseudo emergency !


Note* 1.Left main  disease during acute coronary syndrome is to be seen in different perspective.2.Some of the proximal LAD lesions are so tight and  could be more significant than left main lesions.

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