Alternative causes of myocardial ischemia in women: An update on spontaneous coronary artery dissection, vasospastic angina and coronary microvascular dysfunction

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Abstract

Although coronary obstruction due to atherosclerosis is the most common cause of myocardial ischemia, a significant proportion of patients have myocardial ischemia in the absence of obstructive epicardial coronary artery disease (CAD). This finding is more common among women and alternative causes can mediate myocardial ischemia. Abnormalities in vascular structure, alterations in coronary vasomotion and dysfunction of the coronary microcirculation can all cause ischemia in the absence of obstructive CAD due to atherosclerosis. In this review, we provide an update on three alternative causes of myocardial ischemia: spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), vasospastic angina (VSA) and coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMVD). We review pathophysiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment and outcomes related to these important clinical entities. There is increasing interest in better defining this patient population with use of advanced imaging and testing tools. Despite the increased associated risk with future cardiac events, evidence-based treatments for these diagnoses remain under-studied and poorly defined. These alternative diagnoses should be kept in mind when evaluating women with myocardial ischemia without obstructive CAD due to atherosclerosis.

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