Coronary atherosclerotic plaques with and without thrombus in ischemic heart syndromes: A morphologic, immunohistochemical, and biochemical study

Eloisa Arbustini, Maurizia Grasso, Marta Diegoli, Angela Pucci, Manuela Bramerio, Diego Ardissino, Luigi Angoli, Stefano de Servi, Ezio Bramucci, Antonio Mussini, Gaetano Minzioni, Mario Vigano, Giuseppe Specchia

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We investigated incidence, severity, and distribution of coronary atherosclerosis, acute thrombosis, and plaque fissuring in ischemic heart disease (both unstabte-acute syndromes and chronic ischemia) and in nonischemic controls. We also studied the structural, immunohistochemical, and biochemical profile of plaques, with and without thrombus, including morphometry, immunophenotyping of inflammatory infiltrates, cytokine presence, and ultrastructural features. Critical coronary stenosis was almost the rule in both acute and chronic ischemic series (>90%) whereas it reached 50% in control subjects. Thrombosis was principally characteristic of unstable-acute ischemic syndromes (unstable angina, 32%; acute myocardial infarction, 52%; cardiac sudden death, 26%) but was also found in chronic ischemia (stable angina, 12%; ischemic cardiomyopathy, 14%) and in control subjects (4%). Plaque f issuring without thrombus occurred in low percentages in lipid-rich, severe eccentric plaques in most series. Major differences were found between pultaceous-rich versus fibrous plaques rather than between plaques with or without thrombus. Pultaceous-rich plaques were frequent in sites of critical stenosis, thrombosis, and ulceration. Inflammatory infiltrates, i.e., T cells, macrophages and a few β cells, mostly occurred in lipid-rich, plaques unrelated to thrombus. In adventitia, infiltrates were a common finding unrelated to any syndrome. Necrotizing cytokines such as α-TNF were immunohistochemically detected in macrophages, smooth muscle, and intimal cells and detected by immunoblotting in 67% of pultaceous-rich plaques, either with or without thrombus. Immune response mediators such as IL-2 were also expressed in analogous plaques but in a minor percentage (50%-40%). Media were extensively damaged in severely diseased vessels with and without thrombus. Ultrastructural study showed that the fibrous cap was either highly cellular or densely fibrillar. Intimal injury with collagen exposure was often associated with platelet adhesion, whereas foamy cell exposure was not. In conclusion, investigated parameters were essentially similar in plaques, both with and without thrombus, whereas major differences were found between pultaceous-rich and fibrous plaques. Since platelets adhere to exposed collagen and not to foam cells, the type of exposed substrates could play a major role in thrombosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American Journal of Cardiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 3 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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