Coronary atherosclerosis is a pathologic process that produces thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries to the point that flow through those vessels may be impaired. This study attempts to use transthoracic echocardiography to detect coronary atherosclerosis. Eighty-nine patients undergoing coronary angiography were examined with a broad-band ultrasonic transducer with a frequency between 3 and 5 MHz. A modified short-axis examination was utilized to identify left main and proximal left anterior descending arteries. The examination was recorded digitally and displayed in a 32-cell, quad screen cine loop. Fifty-six of the 89 patients (63%) had obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) (i.e., at least 1 vessel with 50% obstruction). There were 14 patients with CAD but no vessel had ≥50% obstruction. Nineteen patients (21%) had angiographically normal arteries. The coronary echograms were judged qualitatively for brightness, uniformity, and persistence (defined as the ability to see segments of the artery walls in more frames than other segments). The length of the coronary artery visualized, the width of the left main coronary artery, and the width of the thickest segment of the coronary artery walls were quantitatively measured. More than 2 cm of the left coronary artery was seen in almost all patients. Segmental changes were noted in 52 of the 56 patients with obstructive CAD, 12 of the 14 patients with nonobstructive CAD, and 3 of the 19 patients with normal arteries. Persistence greatly enhanced the ability to judge the segmental changes. Forty-six patients with obstructive disease had wall thickness ≥1.5 mm. Only 6 patients with nonobstructive coronary arteries had this wall thickness, and only 1 normal subject had thick walls. The ultrasonic findings were useful in predicting the presence or absence of coronary atherosclerosis to varying degrees of sensitivity and specificity based on the segmental findings and wall thickness measurements. The results of this study indicate that a transthoracic ultrasonic examination of the proximal left coronary artery could be a clinically valuable tool in the qualitative identification of coronary atherosclerosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine