Functional medial thickening and folding of the internal elastic lamina in coronary spasm.
ABSTRACT Although there are a number of studies on vasospastic angina, the structural changes at the cellular level that occur in the coronary arterial wall during spasm are not well known. Coronary spasm was induced by brushing the coronary adventitia in nine anesthetized beagles, and structural changes in the spastic coronary segments were examined by light and electron microscopy, making comparisons with the adjacent nonspastic segments. The % diameter stenosis of the spastic segments as measured angiographically was 79.4±12% (mean±SD). Light microscopic changes in the spastic and nonspastic segments were as follows: medial thickness 1,512 vs. 392 μm (P<0.0001) and % diameter and % area stenoses of spastic segment 81.0% and 96.5%, respectively, indicating that spasm was induced by medial thickening. Circular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the media were arranged in parallel with the internal (IEL) and external (EEL) elastic lamina in nonspastic segments but radially rearranged in spastic segments. SMCs were classified by their patterns of connection to IEL into six types by electron microscopy. Of these, three contracted and pulled the IEL toward the EEL, causing folding of the IEL and waving of EEL resulting in thickening of the media and narrowing of the lumen. We conclude that coronary spasm was elicited by radial rearrangement of the medial SMCs due to their own contraction and resultant medial thickening and folding of IEL, creating a piston effect to narrow the lumen, i.e., spasm.