Mechanisms of balloon angioplasty and directional coronary atherectomy as assessed by intracoronary ultrasound

Alan N. Tenaglia, Christopher E. Buller, Katherine B. Kisslo, Richard S. Stack, Charles J. Davidson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Objective. This study was designed to use intracoronary ultrasound imaging to elucidate the physical effects of balloon angioplasty and directional coronary atherectomy in vivo in humans. Background. The proposed mechanisms of coronary artery interventions such as balloon angioplasty and directional atherectomy are based on animal studies or pathologic findings and these data may not be applicable to living patients. Intracoronary ultrasound findings correlate highly with pathologic results and may allow in vivo assessment of the mechanisms of such interventions in humans. Methods. Intracoronary ultrasound imaging was performed in 45 patients after a successful coronary intervention (balloon angioplasty in 30, directional coronary atherectomy in 15). Ultrasound images obtained at the treatment site and at an adjacent angiographically normal reference site were analyzed quantitatively for minimal lumen diameter, cross-sectional lumen area, area enclosed by the internal elastic lamina, plaque area (internal elastic lamina area - lumen area) and percent area stenosis (plaque area/internal elastic lamina area). Qualitative analysis included assessment of presence of dissection, plaque composition and plaque topography. Results. The results of the two procedures were similar with respect to minimal lumen diameter (angioplasty 2.6 ± 0.5 vs. atherectomy 2.6 ± 0.3 mm, p = NS), lumen area (0.07 ± 0.03 vs. 0.07 ± 0.02 cm2, p = NS) and percent area stenosis (59 ± 14% vs. 51 ± 21%, p = NS). However, after angioplasty, the internal elastic lamina area was significantly larger at the treated site than at the reference site (Δ = +0.03 ± 0.04 cm2, p = 0.01). There was no significant difference between the two sites after atherectomy (Δ = -0.01 ± 0.05 cm2, p = NS). In addition, dissection was seen significantly more often after balloon angioplasty than after atherectomy (50% vs. 7%, p < 0.01). The results were similar when stratified for plaque composition and morphology. These data were confirmed in six additional patients who underwent ultrasound imaging before and after the intervention. Conclusions. Thus, the improvement in lumen dimensions after coronary balloon angioplasty is a result of both vessel stretch, demonstrated by a larger internal elastic lamina area at the treated site, and dissection. Both vessel stretch and dissection are uncommon after atherectomy, a finding consistent with plaque removal as the major mechanism for improved lumen area after this procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-691
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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