Coronary Collateral Circulation in the Transplanted Heart

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The concept that coronary collateral (CC) circulation can develop in cardiac transplant recipients (CTR) is controversial. Indeed, a decreased occurrence of CC in CTR has been previously reported.

Methods and Results.

We reviewed 102 coronary angiograms in 73 CTR to evaluate the presence and significance of CC in denervated human hearts. These angiograms were compared with angiograms of 70 nontransplanted patients. Twenty-six CTR who had undergone at least two coronary angiograms, thus allowing comparative evaluations, form the basis for this study. Angiograms were analyzed using a modification of CC classification (Rentrop et al) from grade 0 for complete absence to grade 4 representing mature collateral with clear filling of epicardial vessels. Coronary artery disease was classified according to the scheme reported by Gao et al. For the purpose of this study, all type A lesions were grouped as large vessel disease (LVD), and types B1, B2, and C were collectively grouped as small vessel (epicardial) disease (SVD). The presence of CC circulation in all 73 CTR was grade 0, 7 (10%); grade 1, 41 (56%); grade 2, 33 (45%); grade 3, 30 (41%); and grade 4, 5 (7%). However, in control nontransplanted subjects grades 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 were found in 47 (67%), 22 (31%), 4 (6%), 11 (15%), and 16 (20%) patients, respectively. The presence of mature collaterals (grade 4) in both groups were associated with type A lesions and was frequent in nontransplanted hearts. In contrast, grade 2 and grade 3 vascular channels probably representing CC with “myocardial blush” was more frequent in CTR and was mostly associated with small vessel coronary arteriopathy.


These results suggest the presence of atypical CC in patients with cardiac allograft arteriopathy. It is speculated that this atypical form of CC with “blush pattern” may represent an angiogenic response to microvascular ischemia due to allograft coronary arteriopathy. (Circulation.1993;88[part 2]:263–269.)

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