Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: An often unrecognized cause of acute coronary syndrome

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Under the circumstances listed above, revascularization with PCI or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) should be considered, with choice of procedure determined by feasibility, technical considerations, and local expertise.

The American Heart Association recommendations are as follows12:

  • For left main or severe proximal 2-vessel dissection in clinically stable patients, consider CABG
  • For active ischemia or hemodynamic instability, consider PCI if feasible or perform urgent CABG.

A few series have shown that the prognosis with conservative management or CABG is better than with PCI.8,13,14 The success rate for revascularization with PCI is only about 60% because of challenges including risk of inducing iatrogenic dissection, passing the wire into the false lumen and worsening a dissection, and propagating an intramural hematoma with stenting and further compromising coronary blood flow. In addition, dissection tends to extend into distal arteries that are difficult to stent. There is also the risk of stent malapposition after resorption of the intramural hematoma, causing late stent thrombosis.7


Imaging of the renal, iliac, and cerebral vasculature is recommended for all patients with SCAD.12 Screening for fibromuscular dysplasia can be done with angiography, computed tomographic angiography (CTA), or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).12

Multifocal fibromuscular dysplasia in extracoronary arteries occurs with SCAD in 25% to 86% of cases. In a single-center series of 115 patients with confirmed SCAD who underwent CTA from 2010 to 2014, extracoronary vascular abnormalities were found in 66%, with fibromuscular dysplasia being the most common type (45%).15 In another single-center study, 327 patients with SCAD were prospectively followed from 2012 to 2016 with screening for cerebrovascular, renal, and iliac fibromuscular dysplasia using CTA or catheter angiography. Fibromuscular dysplasia was found in 63%, and intracranial aneurysm was found in 14% of patients with fibromuscular dysplasia.9

SCAD can also be associated with connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type IV and Marfan syndrome.16,17


Patients with SCAD should start long-term aspirin and 1 year of clopidogrel. Statins are indicated for patients with hyperlipidemia8,18 but otherwise offer no clear benefit for SCAD alone. If there are no contraindications, a beta-adrenergic blocker should be considered, especially if left ventricular dysfunction or arrhythmias are present. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers should also be considered with concomitant left ventricular dysfunction. Antianginal therapy can be used for post-SCAD chest pain syndromes.12

Repeat angiography is recommended only to evaluate recurrent symptoms, to confirm an unclear initial diagnosis, to assess for atherosclerosis-related stenosis, or to evaluate high-risk anatomy, eg, involvement of the left main coronary artery.12

Genetic testing is reserved for patients with a high clinical suspicion of connective tissue disease or systemic arteriopathy.19

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