Physiological Stratification of Patients With Angina Due to Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction

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Background: Coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMD) is defined by diminished flow reserve. Functional and structural CMD endotypes have recently been described, with normal and elevated minimal microvascular resistance, respectively. Objectives: This study determined the mechanism of altered resting and maximal flow in CMD endotypes. Methods: A total of 86 patients with angina but no obstructive coronary disease underwent coronary pressure and flow measurement during rest, exercise, and adenosine-mediated hyperemia and were classified as the reference group or as patients with CMD by a coronary flow reserve threshold of 2.5; functional or structural endotypes were distinguished by a hyperemic microvascular resistance threshold of 2.5 mm Hg/cm/s. Endothelial function was assessed by forearm blood flow (FBF) response to acetylcholine, and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity was defined as the inverse of FBF reserve to N G-monomethyl-L-arginine. Results: Of the 86 patients, 46 had CMD (28 functional, 18 structural), and 40 patients formed the reference group. Resting coronary blood flow (CBF) (24.6 ± 2.0 cm/s vs. 16.6 ± 3.9 cm/s vs. 15.1 ± 4.7 cm/s; p < 0.001) and NOS activity (2.27 ± 0.96 vs. 1.77 ± 0.59 vs. 1.30 ± 0.16; p < 0.001) were higher in the functional group compared with the structural CMD and reference groups, respectively. The structural group had lower acetylcholine FBF augmentation than the functional or reference group (2.1 ± 1.8 vs. 4.1 ± 1.7 vs. 4.5 ± 2.0; p < 0.001). On exercise, oxygen demand was highest (rate−pressure product: 22,157 ± 5,497 beats/min/mm Hg vs. 19,519 ± 4,653 beats/min/mm Hg vs. 17,530 ± 4,678 beats/min/mm Hg; p = 0.004), but peak CBF was lowest in patients with structural CMD compared with the functional and reference groups. Conclusions: Functional CMD is characterized by elevated resting flow that is linked to enhanced NOS activity. Patients with structural CMD have endothelial dysfunction, which leads to diminished peak CBF augmentation and increased demand during exercise. The value of pathophysiologically stratified therapy warrants investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2538-2549
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number20
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020


  • coronary flow reserve
  • endothelial dysfunction
  • microvascular dysfunction
  • nitric oxide
  • stratified medicine


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