Posts Tagged ‘ramus intermedius’

We  are at the mercy  of  the three major coronary arteries (LAD,LCX,RCA) that sustain our life . Their  job is clear cut  .It has to perfuse   about 300 Grams of   live bundle of energy  for  an average of 6-7 decades.

What are the hurdles it  faces ,  how it overcomes these obstacles  forms the fascinating story of   “survival  of  human heart”

When coronary blood supply is confronted with a sudden compromise  as in ACS  ,  often the heart has little  time to respond . Hence the damage  and risk of death is  more. Even here there are lots of safety mechanisms and natural lytic process that limit the loss of life to less than 30 %  of all STEMIs. This implies nature protects against the death in 70 % of individuals and help  them  to reach hospital.*

*Among those  who reach hospital , we  the cardiologists  try to reduce the  mortality to about 6-7 % (20% without treatment ) with all  those hi-tech gadgets .It is a  different story and will be addressed elsewhere .

When it comes to  chronic insults ,  the heart has a unique potential to  stage  long haul battles. It has many tricks  under its  sleeves when challenged in a slow fashion.

The main weapons are two

1. Coronary collateral circulation.

2. Ischemic preconditioning.

Here is a patient who fights his life even after all his  three coronary arteries   totally blocked and surviving with one of the branches of left main -Ramus intermedius .

If you have thought his RCA was the savior  you are  mistaken  .

To every one’s   surprise  his  RCA was awful  as well !

He had angina which was  troublesome  but manageable .Was able to live a life with acceptable standards (Indian standard )  After the angiogram he  received  CABG.  A turbulent post operative course ensued  due to various reasons . He  struggled but   fully recovered  . . .  and  ultimately  reached the  previous  standard  of life !

Final message

Modern cardiology is all about not trusting  powers of nature .

But youngsters should realise the enormous potential of those invisible powers.It may sound philosophical , but please  remember  . . .after all . . .  philosophy  is nothing but  search for truths. Atleast believe in them  once in a while !

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God creates life  with  infinite variation .  The  heart gets  bulk of its blood supply from the left coronary  artery , which divides into two  after a short course.  Bifurcation is the rule . Left main becomes  left circumflex and LAD  in about in 85-90 %.

Note the left main divides into 3 equal caliber vessels.very lucky to have such a branching pattern !Distal left main is unloaded by three large ostia . This makes stasis of blood in left main very unlikely . LAO caudal view



Note : The OMs are small in these people. RAO caudal view

Few men and women are blessed with three branches from LCA . The anatomical and physiological importance of this  branching pattern  is not well analysed in the literature .There  could be  few advantages  of having a trifurcation instead of  bifurcation .

  • Left main  impedence is less in trifurcation . This is due to the fact ,  left main empties into three distinct ostia rather than two.The combined  cross sectional area of these three ostia  confers a hydrodyamic advantage.
  • The importance of  any proximal LAD lesion in these patients , is negated  by  33 % as two other vessels are there to take care the  rest of the heart.
  • A large Ramus usually  supplies a vast area in the angle between LAD and LCX.  This   has a potential  to protect against ventricular  fibrillation during acute occlusion of LAD  by providing  electrical stability .

Disadvantage of trifurcation !

  • It is also a fact , people with a large Ramus may have a trade off by having a diminutive diagonal or OM .
  • A trifurcation with a small calibered  ramus  can often  be a disadvantage , as it is prone for atherosclerosis  since it  restricts  left main flow  by  venturi effect . (The first rule of atherosclerosis states its  prone at branching points)

* A related blog  elsewhere in my site . The explanations  offered above are based on personal observation .


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                                                      Coronary arterial circulation is the life line for  the human heart  and it’s survival.Typically it is supplied by two coronary arteries,  left and right coronary artery.Both, together carry about  250ml of blood every minute.( Approxinately  equal to a  cup of  coke !  ).These coronary arteries  generally divide in a predetermined  fashion , and have multiple branches . It is a  mystery , what  decides this  branching pattern

Is it like a our palmar crease  ? or the cerebral gyri ?

However , it does follow a certain rule,  one major coronary artery  will follow the  four  important grooves of heart. In the left side ,  left main coronary artery (LM) originates in the left coronary sinus (Size varying between 1mm -20mm)  and usually bifurcates into LAD and LCX. The left anterior descending artery (LAD) runs in anterior interventricular  groove while ,  the right atrio ventriculo groove carries the right coronary artery(RCA) .Left  circumflex artery (LCX) traverses the  left atrio ventricular groove.The most inconstant branch is the posterior descending artery (PDA) which runs in the posterior interventricular  groove.PDA  can arise from either RCA, LCX or both or even from LAD.

The major branches of LAD are called diagonal and septal  while the branches of LCX are called obtuse marginal(OM).There can be two to three diagonal and OMs. 

What is ramus intermedius coronary artery ? What is the incidence of Ramus ?

The left main coronary artery  instead of bifurcating into two ,  it trifurcates into three vessels.(LAD, LCX, Ramus)

The real incidence could vary betweenn (10% to 30%) depending upon the series.


What course it takes ?

It generally goes in the angle between the LAD and the LCX.It may either behave like a large OM or a diagonal branch.It supplies the lateral free wall of the LV many times.The peculiarity of this vessel is it does not run in a anatomical groove .It simply slides over the free surface of LV.Rarely, a  very abnormal course of ramus,  criss cross the aorta and pulmonary artery .

How common is atherosclerosis within  Ramus ?

We don’t know yet. But it is very likely since it is an early branch from left main, it  might  have a  predilection for atherosclerosis  as like LAD or LCX ostium.In fact now we recognise more of  trifurcation lesions involving  three branches of left main .

What would be the ECG finding if a large ramus is the culpirit vessel during STEMI ?

This scenario could be rare.

ACS in ramus could  present as ST elevation in 1/Avl /V5,V6

  • Lateral MI
  • Apical MI
  • High lateral MI

But it is realised , whenever the ECG changes are not fitting with typical ASMI or a lateral MI one should suspect a ramus lesion

 What is the significance of ramus for an interventional cardiologist ?


                                                   PCI in ramus is a rare opportunity for a cardiologist .The issue here  is,  if ramus is involved  adjacent LAD and LCX is also likely to be involved .So it would logically be a multivessel , complex angioplasty.Isolated ramus lesion could be tackled easily.Another issue here could  be ,since this vessel is not within  any anatomical groove  stent deployment would have a poor  support and prone for mobilisation and migration .

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