Transmural distribution and connectivity of coronary collaterals within the human heart

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Despite the importance of collateral vessels in human hearts, a detailed analysis of their distribution within the coronary vasculature based on three-dimensional vascular reconstructions is lacking. This study aimed to classify the transmural distribution and connectivity of coronary collaterals in human hearts. One normotrophic human heart and one hypertrophied human heart with fibrosis in the inferior wall from a previous infarction were obtained. After filling the coronary arteries with fluorescent replica material, hearts were frozen and alternately cut and block-face imaged using an imaging cryomicrotome. Transmural distribution, connectivity, and diameter of collaterals were determined. Numerous collateral vessels were found (normotrophic heart: 12.3 collaterals/cm3; hypertrophied heart: 3.7 collaterals/cm3), with 97% and 92%, respectively, of the collaterals located within the perfusion territories (intracoronary collaterals). In the normotrophic heart, intracoronary collaterals {median diameter [interquartile range (IQR)]: 91.4 [73.0–115.7] μm} were most prevalent (74%) within the left anterior descending (LAD) territory. Intercoronary collaterals [median diameter (IQR): 94.3 (79.9–107.4) μm] were almost exclusively (99%) found between the LAD and the left circumflex artery (LCX). In the hypertrophied heart, intracoronary collaterals [median diameter (IQR): 101.1 (84.8–126.0) μm] were located within both the LAD (48%) and LCX (46%) territory. Intercoronary collaterals [median diameter (IQR): 97.8 (89.3–111.2) μm] were most prevalent between the LAD–LCX (68%) and LAD–right coronary artery (28%). This study shows that human hearts have abundant coronary collaterals within all flow territories and layers of the heart. The majority of these collaterals are small intracoronary collaterals, which would have remained undetected by clinical imaging techniques.




van Lier, M. G. J. T. B., Oost, E., Spaan, J. A. E., van Horssen, P., van der Wal, A. C., vanBavel, E., … van den Wijngaard, J. P. H. M. (2016). Transmural distribution and connectivity of coronary collaterals within the human heart. Cardiovascular Pathology, 25(5), 405–412.

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