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Smooth muscle contraction bands in the media of coronary arteries: A postmortem marker of antemortem coronary spasm?

Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0735-1097(85)80221-7
  • Biology
  • Medicine


To date, no unequivocal morphologic markers have been described that would allow the diagnosis of coronary artery spasm to be made at autopsy. The coronary arteries of 63 adult patients without myocardial infarction were examined at autopsy, and the presence of medial smooth muscle contraction bands in these vessels was correlated with other vascular changes, myocardial pathologic changes and clinical history. These contraction bands have not been reported previously in human coronary arteries, but they were identified in experimental vascular spasm induced with catecholamines. It was found that 47 of the 63 cases were positive for contraction bands. As evidence of an antemortem process, there was a significant correlation between these changes and the presence of nonocclusive microthrombi, found in 25 cases. Contraction bands were also highly correlated with atherosclerotic plaque ruptures and mural plaque hemorrhages, which may be secondary to coronary spasm. In 78.7% of the cases positive for contraction bands, the cause of death was related to a diagnosis possibly associated with high catecholamine levels. On the basis of experimental evidence and the correlations identified in this study, coronary artery medial smooth muscle contraction bands may represent a postmortem marker of antemortem coronary spasm.

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