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N Engl J Med. 1986 Oct 9;315(15):913-9.

Coronary angioscopy in patients with unstable angina pectoris.


To visualize intracoronary lesions in patients with different clinical expressions of coronary disease, we performed coronary angioscopy during coronary-artery bypass surgery in 10 patients with unstable angina and 10 patients with stable coronary disease. We examined a total of 32 vessels, using flexible fiberoptic angioscopes. Twenty-two vessels had no acute intimal lesion; three had complex plaques, six had thrombi, and one had both. Coronary angiography correctly identified the absence of complex plaque and thrombus in 22 vessels, but it detected only one of four complex plaques and one of seven thrombi. On angioscopy, none of the 17 arteries in the patients with stable coronary disease had either a complex plaque or thrombus. In the "offending" arteries of the patients with unstable angina, all three patients with accelerated angina had complex plaques and all seven with angina at rest had thrombi. We conclude that angioscopy frequently reveals complex plaques or thrombi not detected by coronary angiography. Our observations suggest that anginal syndromes that are refractory to medical treatment can be caused by unstable pathologic processes in the intima. Ulceration of plaques may increase the frequency and severity of effort angina, and the subsequent development of partially occlusive thrombi may cause unstable rest angina.

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