The human coronary collateral circulation: development and clinical importance


Coronary collaterals are an alternative source of blood supply to myocardium jeopardized by ischaemia. In comparison with other species, the human coronary collateral circulation is very well developed. Among individuals without coronary artery disease (CAD), there are preformed collateral arteries preventing myocardial ischaemia during a brief vascular occlusion in 20-25%. Determinants of such anastomoses are low heart rate and the absence of systemic arterial hypertension. In patients with CAD, collateral arteries preventing myocardial ischaemia during a brief occlusion are present in every third individual. Collateral flow sufficient to prevent myocardial ischaemia during coronary occlusion amounts to one-fifth to one-fourth the normal flow through the open vessel. Myocardial infarct size, the most important prognostic determinant after such an event, is the product of coronary artery occlusion time, area at risk for infarction, and the inverse of collateral supply. Well-developed coronary collateral arteries in patients with CAD mitigate myocardial infarcts and improve survival. Approximately one-fifth of patients with CAD cannot be revascularized by percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass grafting. Therapeutic promotion of collateral growth is a valuable treatment strategy in those patients. It should aim at growth of large conductive collateral arteries (arteriogenesis). Potential arteriogenic approaches include the treatment with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, physical exercise training, and external counterpulsatio

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