Identification of Coronary Artery Stenoses and Poststenotic Blood Flow Patterns Using a Miniature High-Frequency Epicardial Transducer

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Intraoperative epicardial coronary Doppler ultrasound has the potential to provide anatomic and functional information. This technique has been hindered by the large size of standard transducers, but a miniature transducer is available that may fulfill the potential of coronary ultrasound.

Methods and Results

Twenty consecutive patients who were undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting were studied and compared with 9 control patients with normal coronary arteries who were undergoing routine mitral valve surgery. A miniature 6.5-MHz transducer was used to image coronary arteries and measure coronary blood flow velocities. Seventeen proximal left anterior descending and 3 right coronary artery stenoses were studied. As defined by coronary angiography (1 to 34 days before surgery), there were 13 severe stenoses (>70%), 4 moderate stenoses (40% to 70%), 2 minor stenoses (<40%), and 1 subtotal occlusion. Stenoses were readily identified by ultrasound. Color flow mapping demonstrated laminar flow in normal arteries and nonlaminar flow across moderate and severe stenoses. In the control patients with unobstructed arteries, peak and mean diastolic velocities were 35±2.1 and 26±1.9 cm/s with peak and mean systolic velocities of 16± 1.4 and 11±0.8 cm/s, respectively. Prestenotic flow velocities were not significantly different from normal control values, but a wide range of poststenotic flow disturbances were detected. Analysis of the 20 study patients did not reveal significant differences in poststenotic compared with prestenotic flow. A subgroup analysis of 12 patients with severe left anterior descending coronary artery stenoses was performed, and reversed poststenotic systolic flow was seen in 9. Prestenotic peak and mean systolic velocities were 16.5 ± 1.7 and 11.9±1.1 cm/s, respectively, and were significantly altered downstream of the stenoses at −22.7±17.2 and −15.9±10.9 cm/s (P < .05 and P < .01, respectively). Reversed systolic flow was seen only distal to severe left anterior descending coronary artery stenoses and did not correlate with retrograde collateral filling as determined by preoperative coronary angiography. Moderate stenoses appeared to increase both systolic and diastolic components of poststenotic flow.


Epicardial Doppler ultrasound with a miniature transducer identifies coronary stenoses and associated blood flow disturbances. Compared with moderate lesions, severe stenoses demonstrated different poststenotic flow patterns. Intraoperative use of this technique may determine the hemodynamic significance of coronary stenoses.

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