Acute Coronary Syndromes: The Way Forward From Mechanisms to Precision Treatment

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Abstract

Well into the 21st century, we still triage acute myocardial infarction on the basis of the presence or absence of ST-segment elevation, a century-old technology. Meanwhile, we have learned a great deal about the pathophysiology and mechanisms of acute coronary syndromes (ACS) at the clinical, pathological, cellular, and molecular levels. Contemporary imaging studies have shed new light on the mechanisms of ACS. This review discusses these advances and their implications for clinical management of the ACS for the future. Plaque rupture has dominated our thinking about ACS pathophysiology for decades. However, current evidence suggests that a sole focus on plaque rupture vastly oversimplifies this complex collection of diseases and obscures other mechanisms that may mandate different management strategies. We propose segmenting coronary artery thrombosis caused by plaque rupture into cases with or without signs of concomitant inflammation. This distinction may have substantial therapeutic implications as direct anti-inflammatory interventions for atherosclerosis emerge. Coronary artery thrombosis caused by plaque erosion may be on the rise in an era of intense lipid lowering. Identification of patients with of ACS resulting from erosion may permit a less invasive approach to management than the current standard of care. We also now recognize ACS that occur without apparent epicardial coronary artery thrombus or stenosis. Such events may arise from spasm, microvascular disease, or other pathways. Emerging management strategies may likewise apply selectively to this category of ACS. We advocate this more mechanistic approach to the categorization of ACS to provide a framework for future tailoring, triage, and therapy for patients in a more personalized and precise manner.

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