Posts Tagged ‘nitroglycerine’

We know Nitroglycerine(NTG) as a most powerful epicardial coronary dilator  . We use it for instant relief during episodes of coronary arterial spasm in cath lab.

What will happen if we administer NTG over a stented segment ?

Does it dilate it with same vigor ? What will be the consequence  ?

A perfect setting for stent migration isn’t ?

Let us bust the myth around  NTG . NTG  rarely  show  visible coronary dilating effect except in the setting of coronary spasm .

NTG and coronary vasodilatation

Does a LAD with 3 mm diameter become 3.1 or 3.2  and so on with NTG ?

No .It won’t .It is my belief. It is well known , NTG’s action varies significantly in normal and diseased endothelium . Again , there is an irony .It seems , it can act only in normal endothelium , but  we need require it’s therapeutic action only in pathological segments.Further any stented segment would contain   clusters of  both normal and abnormal endothelium .

One more inference is that, stented segment exerts constant pressure on intima making any  pharmacological vasodilatation irrelevant .

Importance of  radial strength of a stent

This issue of vaso-dilator induced  stent migration may not arise in self expanding wall stent with high radial force.But we do not know how long these metals will carry this metallic property .Balloon delivered  stents ( currently used 99% of times ) do not have permanent radial strength .

Final message

I am yet to comprehend what nitrates are expected to do (and what it really does ?)  in a patient post PCI ? (By the way  . . . why we need to prescribe Nitrates it in the first place ? but  In real world most continue to take this for many reasons .)

We need to analyse the micro-vasomotion at the stent -coronary intimal interface.The dynamism in this  narrow space  can be critical  , and may make the difference between life and death !

After thought .

In the hind sight,  this post appears quixotic  for myself . But some one , some where , may generate a great idea  out of it , that will help our patients.

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An elderly man  with past H/o CAD  was admitted with ischemic LVF and hypotension .Blood pressure was  90/60 mmhg  and pulse rate was 140 . Urine urine output  in the immediate past hour was 50 ml . Saturation was 95 % .He had fairly extensive  crackles in both lung fields.

A bed side echo showed  moderate LV dysfunction , with wall motion defect in LCX territory and  mild  MR .A dignosis of post  MI -ischemic LVF was made .

He  was  put on intensive anti failure protocol. I asked my  fellow to administer IV NTG  and left the ward .

On my next visit after few hours  . . . the patient was in much bad shape  , and when I enquired , I learnt  NTG was never administered . I was curious to know why the fellow  dis- obeyed my instruction .

He felt sorry  .  .  . But he earnestly told me  , he  could not comprehend the principle of administering NTG in a  patient  with shock ! . I was happy  to  note his  genuine concern  for   the patient  !  But  . . . I had to take a brief  lecture to convince the importance of NTG in some forms of shock !

What is the cause for hypotension in ischemic LVF ?

Lungs are flooded due to  very high LVEDP . Blood  not only struggles to  enter the LV  but also finds difficult to   leave the LV ,  former due to defective relaxation later due to poor pumping.

The extremely high pre-load actually stuns the left ventricle in diastole . (Primarily diastolic stunning  )  . Here is a hemodynamic paradox . Excess pre-load  occurs in  terms of pressure , but  in terms of volume there is miniscule amount  blood  that  traverses LV  .

This is pre-load mismatch  at play .Empty ventricles with high wall stress  and that is reflected in aortic afterword as well .

We have to some how reduce the  very high levels of LVEDP . IV NTG can  dramatically  reduce the pre load  ( and reduce the LVEDP .) The other major  benefit is ,  NTG   can reduce the MVO2 by improving sub endocardium coronary perfusion and de-stress the heart.

Once  LVEDP  is  lowered  , the ventricle will tend to recover and gain at least some  original elasticity ( Frank starling forces) . Of course it will be defective due to ongoing ischemia . Even slight fall of LVEDP (say from 25 to 18 mmhg  can have  significant benefits as the LV function curve labors on the steep shoulder region !) .

This is one situation where NTG can increase the blood pressure once the hemodynamics is favorably altered.

*Yes  . . . heavy doses  of  Frusemide injection can do the same job but it largely depends the kindey’s cooperation to flush out fluids  .In a shock like situation one can trust the kidney perfusion  !

Additional benefits of NTG

Mitral  regurgitation  is a serious destabilizer of LV function .NTG can reduce the regurgitant fraction in acute MR effectively .


NTG may worsen the hypotension of RV infarction . Make it very sure , you are not dealing with this unique  pre-load dependent circulation.

What happened to this patient ?

He  did show  improvement with IV NTG . Of course it was not dramatic as I have projected in this article .Still it was really helped him .He required simultaneous dobutamine infusion as well .The BP did not fall  further and lung congestion was relieved  .He went on to recover fully by 48 hours and was posted for elective cath study .

Final message

                                             We tend to  worry  more about falling blood pressure  when administering  NTG. . .It is a wonderfully effective drug especially in the setting of ischemia and cardiac failure  even if  the blood pressure is low !

Acute cardiac hemodynamics  is  complex phenomenon .No one has mastered it .Paradoxes are common . Hypotension in the back ground of  acute pulmonary edema  especially due to ischemic LVF  can be corrected by NTG . Of course physicians  need  some  courage to administer NTG in patients  with a systolic pressure of  80-90mmhg.

This should ideally be done with intra arterial line in place and a simultaneous inotropic line (Doubtamine /Nor-epinephrine ) back up in case of worsening perfusion pressure .

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Coronary arterial spasm is a commonly discussed entity  in clinical cardiology. Originally described by prinzmetal decades ago .It was reported to occur only in coronary care units as variant angina .There is nothing called stable spasm every episode of spasm is considered as unstable angina.

How common is coronary artery spasm ?

This condition thought to be very  common during ACS , but  notoriously difficult to confirm.In fact many of episodes are clinically suspected and never confirmed. There has been lot of provocative tests for confirming coronary spasm like ergonavine etc.None of these tests were  neither useful nor practical.

What are the clinical situations where coronary spasm occur ?

Old concepts die hard.Most of us believe , the most common cause for coronary spasm is prinzmetal’s  angina ie , angina   in normal coronary arteries or  with minimal lesions .Clinical experience ,  has taught us coronary spasm can occur in all spectrum of acute coronary syndrome or even chronic coronary syndromes.

Some believe every episode of STEMI will have a component of coronary spasm.

In NSTEMI/Unstable angina spontaneous coronary spasm is an important pathogenetic mechanism

Now,  we witness transient coronary artery spasm in the cath lab due to catheter and other hard ware.The spasm  here  , is secondary to mechanical stress and this in no way related to the coronary spasm described by prinzmetal in the pre cath era.

What is the link between coronary spasm and electrocardiogram ?

The most common  fallacy among  coronary care physician is , if it is spasm  there must be ST elevation

The classical cardiology teaching all over the world , has been so powerful  this myth continues to prevail over . The fact  of the matter is ,  the  coronary arterial spasm  , can never have any direct impact on the ECG. (Unless , coronary smooth muscle generate ST currents !)  . So , whatever  be  the effect of spasm it  is through it’s effect on the myocardial  blood flow.

Hence ,  it is not the coronary artery spasm that will dictate  the movement of ST segment . It is the impact of myocardial blood flow  to the layers of the myocadium  namely , endocardium, epicardium  , epicardium (  or a combination of  the above )  that will dictate ST segment dynamics.

What are the  the ECG features of coronary artery spasm ?

It can be

  1. ST depression
  2. ST elevation
  3. Only with T wave changes (Tall or Deep T invrsions)
  4. Flattish ST segment  or  rarely , entirely normal ECG indicating balanced ST forces

Among this , the most common manifestation of coronary spasm is thought to be ,  subendocardial ischemia and resultant ST depression .This classically occur in many cases of NSTEMI/UA .

This makes  ST depression  the dominant manifestation of spasm  ,

How coronary spasm can elevate the ST segment ?

If it  can   induce a transmural ischemia  it  can elevate a ST segment . Does  all episodes coronary spasm result in transmural ischemia ? No,not at all .in fact it happens very rare  as we have already seen .

To result in transmural ischemia , the spasm should be total &  sustained ,   at least for few minutes   to   completely   occlude  the blood flow .

Milder forms of spasm can elicit only  a  sub endocardial ischemia  that  depress the ST segment.

*There is a rare variety of spasm where subepicardium is more affected than endocardium and hence ST elevation may occur.

What is the effect of Nitroglycerine on coronary spasm ?

This is a very powerful coronary spasmolytic agent.We can witness it’s action more vividly in cath lab .

It brings back the ST segment to neutral position , from either a elevated or depressed state  .Many believe , ( may it’s a fact ) much of the early  benefit of angina relief in UA/NSTEMI is  amelioration of coronary spasm

Is coronary spasm a neural event or a biochemical event ?

The exact  answer is not known .It should be chemicals as  neural  signals are also mediated by chemicals.

What are the biochemical mediators of coronary spasm ?

  • Smooth muscle calcium : Calcium flux is the immediate cause for spasm
  • Mediators .Neural :Catecholamine ,
  • Thrombus  secretes  Thromoxane A2  which is a powerful vasoconstrictor

Smooth muscle calcium

Is  coronary vasoconstriction  and  coronary spasm  are synonymous ?

Both terms are synonymous . Vasoconstriction is often used to refer  constriction of  microvasculature

while  spasm  often describes  the event in large  epicardial vessel. Some times the term coronary vasomotion is used to describe  fluctuating coronary arterial tone.

What are the determinants of coronary artery spasm ?

  • Location (RCA>LCA)
  • Lesion characteristics -Eccentric overhanging lesion can trigger a spasm by  the plaque ‘s weight.
  • Thrombus content
  • Acuteness of the event
  • Adrenergic tone and nerve activity
  • Concomitant betablockade  .  Theoretical risk ?

What are the types  of coronary spasm ?

  • Discrete ring or band like  spasm
  • Segmental
  • Diffuse long segment  spasm
  • Multilevel spasm in same coronary artery
  • Pan coronary spasm entire vessel (rare)
  • Remote spasm away from catheter tip

Unanswered questions in coronary spasm

Can a totally normal  coronary artery go for spasm all of a sudden ?

It is thought to be rare. Even in prinxmetal series some amount of atherosclerosis was documented in most patients.

What is the relationship between spasm and adjacent lesion ?

Spasm following PCI :Can spasm crush a stent ?

Can a  coronary collaterals go for spasm ?

Logically  Spasm  can  occur  coronary collaterals .But it is difficult to document .coronary collaterals eventhough  has three layes as that of artery (Intima, media, adventia) th medial smooth muscles are less sparse. Advential lack vasa nervorum and hence neural input is less.So spasm is a rare event in coronary collaterals

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