Obstructive coronary atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease: An elusive link!

Mario Marzilli*, C. Noel Bairey Merz, William E. Boden, Robert O. Bonow, Paola G. Capozza, William M. Chilian, Anthony N. Demaria, Giacinta Guarini, Alda Huqi, Doralisa Morrone, Manesh R. Patel, William S. Weintraub

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


In the current pathophysiological model of chronic ischemic heart disease (IHD), myocardial ischemia and exertional angina are caused by obstructive atherosclerotic plaque, and the clinical management of IHD is centered on the identification and removal of the stenosis. Although this approach has been in place for years, several lines of evidence, including poor prognostic impact, suggest that this direct relationship may present an oversimplified view of IHD. Indeed, a large number of studies have found that IHD can occur in the presence or absence of obstructive coronary artery disease and that atherosclerosis is just 1 element in a complex multifactorial pathophysiological process that includes inflammation, microvascular coronary dysfunction, endothelial dysfunction, thrombosis, and angiogenesis. Furthermore, the high recurrence rates underscore the fact that removing stenosis in patients with stable IHD does not address the underlying pathological mechanisms that lead to the progression of nonculprit lesions. The model proposed herein shifts the focus away from obstructive epicardial coronary atherosclerosis and centers it on the microvasculature and myocardial cell where the ischemia is taking place. If the myocardial cell is placed at the center of the model, all the potential pathological inputs can be considered, and strategies that protect the cardiomyocytes from ischemic damage, regardless of the causative mechanism, can be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)951-956
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 11 2012


  • atherosclerosis
  • ischemic heart disease
  • multifactorial
  • revascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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