Posts Tagged ‘stable angina’

Acute coronary syndrome  is primarily a disease of blood vessel , which perfuses  the heart.  It can even be a disorder of blood, often called vulnerable blood which predispose  for intra- coronary thrombus .

Mind you  , heart is an innocent bystander ! to the onslaught of  coronary atherosclerosis !

Hence , we  often use two terminologies .

CAD : Pure vascular (Coronary )  disease without  any structural and functional impairment of heart  ( No Angina, No myocardial damage ) Most of the asymptomatic plaques  , non flow limiting  lesions, incidentally detected by the modern coronary imaging gadgets  fall in this category.

When does  CAD becomes CAHD ?

CAHD : Coronary artery heart disease .Here not only the coronary artery is diseased , but it has it’s mission fulfilled   ie target organ either damaged structurally (STEMI, NSTEMI ) or functionally (EST positive , Chronic stable angina CSA )

Does the heart does any wrong to suffer from Acute coronary  syndrome  ?

No, it is simply not .The fault lies in one or more  of the following   .Generally at-least two these factors are enough to impede blood flow )  . They  combine to produce an ACS.

  • Blood defect
  • Vessel wall defect
  • Slowing of flow (Stasis)

This is called as Virchow’s triad   suggested over 100 years ago . Still valid in the era of per cutaneous  aortic valve implantation.

* The concept of de-linking  disorders of  coronary  vascular disease  from myocardial disease  is vital  in understanding the implications of current modalities of treatment. 

Even though we PCIs target the culprit ie blood vessel , it need to  realised , we  always fall short of real target . . .namely the heart . In coronary interventions  the catheters and wires roam around superficially over the heart  and they never even touch the heart .This is the reason PCIs are struggling to prove it’s  worthiness over medical therapy in many CAHD patients , which can reach deep  into the vessel, heart  and even every individual cells of heart.

Many (or . . . is it most ?)  Interventional  cardiologists have a bad  reputation for ” failing to look  look beyond the lesion” .  It is estimated  a vast  number  of cathlabs  and CABG theaters worldwide  are engaged in futile  attempt to restore coronary artery patency after a target organ damage is done .This is akin to building flyovers  to dead and closed highways .

Salvaging a coronary  artery and reliving a coronary obstruction is an entirely unrelated and futile  exercise to  a patient who has a problem  primarily in  musculature .

The much debated concept of  documenting  myocardial viability  , before revascularisation  died a premature death as the concept  by itself , was not viable commercially . (Viability studies   , tend to tie down the hands of device industry further , some  interventional   cardiologists began to see this concept  as an  interference to their freedom to adventure  )

Of-course , now  we have  other parameters  phenomenon  like  FFR estimation by Doppler , epicardial  -myocardial dissociation, slow  flow , no re-flow are  gaining importance.

Final message

ACS is primarily a disease of blood vessel but it’s impact is huge on heart. We need to look beyond the lesion .Restoring  a blood vessel  patency  to an ailing organ (Heart ) is not synonymous with total  cardiac intervention  and protection . There is lot more to cardiac physiology other than it’s blood flow. Heart muscle is a too complex organ to be controlled by few balloons and wires  which beat around the bush.

Read Full Post »

It is a well known fact  ,   CABG and PCI  provides immediate relief  for patients with angina ,  which is refractory to medical therapy. Of course , this happens only if a critical occlusion of  at least one epicardial coronary artery is  opened . It need to be realised ,  angina  due to  microvascular  disease can not be cured by maintaining  epicardial  patency .

While angina  relief is prompt ,  dyspnea is not ! . If we  believe,  opening  up a  coronary artery  in a patient with LV dysfunction will  restore the LV function  ,  it  is grossly mistaken !

Why is it so ?

Angina  relief requires  simple  restoration  of  oxygen supply and correction of local ischemia .  This happens without any issue as the blood  seeps in to the ischemic cells and soothes the ischemic nerve fibres that trigger the pain signals   . While  ,  for LV function to improve , the blood flow has to be converted to mechanical activity in the form of myocyte actin/myosin interaction. For this,   there need to be an intact  cellular contractile mechanism . The myocyte architecture should be appropriate .In post MI ventricles we know there is  zig zag  orientation of myofibrils due to myocyte slippage that interfere with mechanical recruitment . Further , integrity of  extracellular matrix  namely the collagen frame work is also vital . Note ,  angina relief  is not concerned with any of the above .

And now ,  we also realise  dyspnea  in failing ventricles  is vitally  dependent on diastolic function ,  which is also very much  impaired in ischemic DCM .There is little proof for  PCI/CABG  to correct the  molecular   mysteries in  diastolic dysfunction !

Dysfunctional LV means what ? (read the link )

It is a collection of  variety of myocardial tissues . Viz : Fully  necrosed , partially necrosed ,  ischemic viable, non ischemic viable, ischemic non viable, non ischemic non viable , Apart from this patchy necrosis, patchy ischemic, areas are common. Finally , necrosed segments   may  also be perfused normally by  spontaneous reopening of an IRA.

One can imagine the complexity  of events in these segments  once we do the  PCI /CABG . The response  is highly variable and unpredictable. The major concept we  , the physicians  believe or ( to be precise made to believe !) is  the  sanctity  devoted to  the viable myocardium .For  many us ,  it is considered a  holy  exercise  to identify viable myocardium in patients following MI and then revascularise them if  found to have significant viable myocardium (Atleast 20% of infarcted area )

A full 2 decades were lost or (shall  we   say wasted on this futile exercise !) as   we have since  realised most of the cardiologists do not follow this rule .

Now , even a scarred myocardium is revascularised in the hope of recovery .As such , we have reached a stage where  there is no contradiction for not doing a PCI /CABG   with reference to LV dysfunction.

Now every  patient  with post MI  LV dysfunction  is considered to  have  some amount of viable myocardium that is  fit   enough  for revascularization

Are we justified in doing  this ?

Many clinical  trials  have revealed  , the  recovery of LV function  in these segments  has not been consistent at all .

The most surprising discovery is  a viable myocardium need not  be ischemic   .It might get adequate blood supply either  from invisible collaterals or trickle of antegrade flow .  Hence an adequately  perfused myocardial segment can  still be   non contractile . This shatters the myth  that  revascularisation must have a dramatic effect on the recovery of contractility in all viable segments.

The other major finding is  ,  even ischemic   viable   myocardium ( documented by metabolic activities PET etc)  need not regain it’s original contractility  after the ischemia is fully corrected .

*reference for  both the above statements are available from variety of sources including real life experiences .(Type C evidence )

Final message

  • Do a PCI/CABG promptly for patients with refractory angina.
  • Never  advocate PCI/CABG  for  a primary relief of dyspnea .  (Never is a harsh word,  let it be  “use it  with caution ” ! and  the  patient  should be  revealed  the whole facts  about  what we know and what we do not know regarding the complex  hemodyanmic events  in  revascularisation   )

Counter point

If  the above statements are really true ,   How does PCI/CABG   help  relieving  dyspnea  and functional class  what is your answer for thousands of patients  with CAD and ischemic DCM who have greatly benefited from CABG ?

The answer could  be  simple , The revascularization  piggybacks  over the   medical management (which , these patients pursue vigorously)     like  ACEI,  statins, salt restriction, betablockers  , optimal diuretics and tend to hijack the credits from the poor  drugs !

Read a related blog

Revascularisation for ischemic DCM

Read Full Post »

Exercise  stress test ( Also called treadmill test ) is an important investigation  not only in patients  with suspected  CAD  but also in  established CAD . In the former  group ,  it helps us to exclude CAD in patients with chest  pain and in the later group ,  it helps us to assess  functional capacity , risk stratification and to detect any  additional ( New or residual ) ischemia.

Stress test being a physiological test , has a huge  advantage of assessing the adequacy of myocardial blood flow without even  knowing the coronary anatomy , while Coronary angiogram (CAG)   has a zero physiological value* in spite of   excellent assessment of the coronary anatomy !

It is an irony , in the assessment of angina we are expected to assess the physiological adequacy of myocardial blood flow ,  we have kept coronary angiogram as a gold standard  over and above the much  neglected  physiological stress test.

Of course, the limitation of stress test is that ,  it has only 75%  specificity(  to rule out CAD ) and about 80% sensitivity (To detect CAD ) .In simple terms  stress test is likely to miss  20% times to miss a CAD  in patients with CAD  and 25% of times falsely diagnose CAD  in patients without CAD.

In the above statistics  ,  coronary angiogram was considered   gold standard . The problem with this data is that , CAG is not the real gold standard ,but it was  nominated  as a gold standard . We now know normal coronary angiogram is not equivalent  to  normal coronary arteries and vice versa.

While both test have limitations , it is logical to believe CAG has an edge over stress test since it visualises the anatomy. But ,  once an obstruction is demonstrated by CAG, stress test scores over in assessing the physiological impact of the lesion.

Is a 70% LAD lesion significant or not ?

Stress test will give vital information to answer this question.If this patient performs 10-12Met exercise without symptoms it means , the obstruction is not impeding the flow even during stress. He may do well with medical therapy.

What does a positive stress *mean for the patient and for the physician ?

(* A false positive EST in LVH, anemia, baseline ST shifts are included in discussion )
  • A positive stress test  with or without angina at low workload <5 METS  indicates very significant obstructive CAD either in left main , or proximal LAD/LCX. They should get immediate CAG.
  • A positive stress test at load  5-10METS  is again significant and patients should get early CAG
  • A positive stress test with angina at good work load >10-12 mets  would indicate insignificant or minimally obstructive  CAD.
  • A positive stress test at  the peak of exercise  at good work load > 10-12METS without angina could indicate a false positive or very minimal CAD.

For the physician , the proper way  of interpretation  should be , the fact that a person performs 10-12  METS  indicate the myoacardial blood flow  would  be  more than adequate in most life situations. Knowing the coronary anatomy serves no purpose here, as no revascularisation will be attempted even if he is going to have a significant CAD ( Which again , is also highly unlikely ) .He should be managed with appropriate lifestyle (Diet, activity, relaxation )  anti anginal drugs,  aspirin , good lipid control and plaque stabilisation with statins .

Can a  patient with critical left main  or proximal LAD  perform >10METS in exercise stress test ?

No , large clinical experience (Also refered to Class C evidence  by ACC/AHA!) indicate no patient with critical  left main or equivalent disease  can perform 10 METS  excercise

While  ,  EST may be less hyped investigation, but it is the  only  noninvasive test , ( that too , simple and  cheap ) that can rule out * a significant left main  or equivalent almost   100%  correctly .

Now that,   the results of COURAGE  and BARI 2D have clearly indicated medical therapy is best form of management  in chronic  CAD , ( except in severe obstructive CAD in vital locations)  a  positive EST  at > 10-12Mets  , has absolutely no indication* to for doing a CAG.

*Some would advocate a policy of  doing a  CAG as a baseline investigation in all patients with positive EST  to know the coronary anatomy and will not proceed onto revascularisation if there is insignificant lesions.

Further ,  real life experience has taught us , routine  CAG in these patients

  1. Increases patient anxiety as he is given a report with a diagram of obstructed heart vessels
  2. Leads to multiple cardiac consultations
  3. Divergence of opinions
  4. Finally end up in  the likely hood of a inappropriate  revascularisation for a  insignificant distal CAD.

Final message

Every patient,  who has positive stress test  , ( Please note , it could  even be  true positive  )  need not undergo CAG .  Most  interventional cardiologists could  feel  otherwise , but one should also  remember ,  There is one  more role  for the interventional cardiologist ie  , to intervene when inappropriate interventions are done to their patients.


Read Full Post »

Angina is classified in many ways .The most useful , clinical classification is stable and unstable angina . While  ,the former generally is considered   innocuous  the  later conveys a sinister  signal to the patient as well as  the physician. 

Why stable angina is  stable ?

In stable angina

  • The patient knows how the pain is going to behave by his past experience.
  • Very predictable .The patient knows at what distance it’s going to come
  • He also knows when  it will disappear.(For some , with rest for others with nitrates)
  • He also knows where the chest pain will radiate.
  • If some thing is unusual it is unlikely to be  stable angina , also any  first episode of angina is considered unstable as one wouldn’t  know how the angina is going to behave !

How is that stable angina has such a learned behaviour ?

The main reason for  the beningn nature of  stable angina is the coronary artery has “stable plaques”

Stable plaques produce stable angina  ,Unstable plaques cause unstable angina

Stable plaque s restrict blood flow only at times of  increased demand( ie supply side ischemia.) There is no thrombus in these plaques.As soon as the exertion ends the angina is relieved.So in chronic stable angina, the patient is stable, the angina is stable , the palque is stable , the coronary blood flow is stable.

Unstable palques have erosion and thrombus , and it interferes with blood flow even at rest .So in  unstable angina, not only the angina is unstable , the plaque is unstable  ,coronary blood flow is unstable. So it is obvious unstable angina , may not be relieved by bed rest.It needs intensive treatment.

Is there a overlap between stable and unstable angina?

Yes. In fact it is more common than we realise.

Read this post https://drsvenkatesan.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=2177

Related topics

How is a stable palque converts into a unstable plaque ?

How do you identify these vulnerable plaques ?






































Read Full Post »

                                        Angina pectoris , classically occur on exertion and gets relieved on rest .This is called typical chronic stable angina as described by Heberden (CSA ) .  Unstable angina(UA), the term originally described by Noble O Fowler in early 1970s. ( Also being referred as  intermediate coronary syndrome , preinfarction angina etc).The definition for unstable angina has evolved  over the years  and currently  refers to .

 1.All new onset angina of any degree* Some include severe angina only ! New onset angina of very mild degree on exertion could be the onset of the first episode of  stable  angina. 

 2.Rest angina of more than >30 mts not relieved by taking sublingual nitroglycerine.

 3.All Post MI angina

 4.Any angina in patients who have been stented by PCI.

How to recognise a patient  who is shifting from  stable angina to  UA ? 
UA is  to be suspected when  a patient develops. 
5.More frequent episodes than usual
6.Angina occurring at lesser level of exertion than before 
7.Angina radiating to new site ( Example : Chest pain radiating  to jaw rather than to the usual left arm or vice versa)

Why the first episode of angina is given a special status and often considered critica ?

Angina is the  clinical expression of   myocardial ischemia.The course of  the  first  episode of angina , can not be predicted.It could be a the beginning of a chronic disease process, or it could be a progressive coronary occlusion as in unstable angina /NSTMEI , or the onset of even a STEMI.
In contrast a patient with chronic stable angina  has a predictable chest pain , at a particular level of exertion, radiation to same site, same character, and the patient knows for sure the pain  would promptly dissappear  when he takes rest or nitroglycerine  tablets.

What is the underlying pathology in UA ?  

Generally it is very rare for  a stable plaque to produce a  serious episode of unstable angina .It  requires  an unstable plaque* to  precipitate an unstable angina !
Unstable plaque refers to any plaque which is eroded, fissured, ruptured or  hanging  eccentrically ,  with
an active thrombus.

What is the significance of post PCI angina?

It is an irony, any angina following PCI is to be considered unstable as sudden occlusion of stent is quiet common.This is a paradox of sorts as one would wonder in a patient  with CSA who undergoes PCI with stenting  of left anterior descending coronary artery  (LAD)  all his subsequent episodes of angina  will be labelled as UA  even if a stable angina occur in his other coronary artery.And these patients would go for early invasive approach and potentially inappropriate interventions even if they are at low risk !

Is all angina at rest can be termed as unstable angina ?

No, but many times ,  rather most of the times  cardiologist believe all rest angina to be unstable.

What are the situations where stable angina can occur at rest?

An episode of angina during mental stress, or post prandial* state are very common in patients with CSA. This gets relieved after the stress. Some times  patients with CSA during episodes of fever may get angina at rest .These are considered variants of stable angina.
Post prandial angina , may be considered by some as unstable

How often a diagnostic confusion occur between CSA and UA ?

Generally, this issue is rarely addressed in cardiology literature , for the  simple reason it is never considered an  issue at all !
According to Canadian cardiovascular society grade 4 stable angina  is almost similar to unstable angina , as it denotes angina occurs with minimal effort or even at rest. In fact CCSC grade 4 should be termed as UA.

Can ECG be useful to identify stable angina from unstable angina ?

                                    ECG will some times  come to our rescue when one is confused between stable and unstable angina even though resting ST depression can occur in both stable and unstable angina . Statistically , if ST depression is noted during an episode of angina it is more likely to be UA rather than CSA. . Apart  from ECG , Troponin T or I levels may be elevated in some of the patients with unstable angina. Rarely stable angina can also show elevated troponin.

In patients with systemic hypertension and LVH or cardiomyopathy resting ST depression may not indicate UA 

So differentiation between, stable and unstable angina even though appear simple and  straight forward, it requires a diligent appraisal of history , physical examination (Aortic stenosis /HCM  may cause stable angina)  and ECG, enzyme evaluation.

Final message

In any coronary care unit ,  admissions with initial diagnosis of  ACS/UA/NSTEMI , subsequently turn out to be simple stable coronary artery disese . This error happens because the chest pain  or ECG changes  are aggravated by non cardiac factors like a mental stress or a post operative stress  or fever etc.
There could  be another school of thought, that is to err on the side of  safety, and manage all  rest angina as UA  .But the hazards of unwarranted therapy might exceed the risks of leaving these patients alone.
In this context ,there is a need for a new definition for unstable angina .
One ideal version could be . . .
  • Any angina , of any degree  which is caused  mainly by the supply side defect (By a acute thrombotic /disruptive plaque   occluding the  coronary lumen  with a imminent danger of myocardial infarction is to termed as real UA.
  •  All post MI and post PCI angina are unstable angina
  •  Rest angina which occurs due to increased demand situations need not be  labelled  as unstable angina for the simple reason  there is neither an active plaque nor a  fresh thrombus likely  in these patients. They rarely develop  recurrent angina or MI . The mechanism of angina at rest here is most often due to a tachycardia and resultant increase in MVO2 .(myocardial oxygen consumption) .Currently they are called as secondary unstable angina.In fact , anti thrombotic drugs are misused in these situations as they satisfy the criteria of UA/NSTEMI.

Read Full Post »