Skip to main content
Skip main navigationClose Drawer MenuOpen Drawer Menu

Multicentric inflammation in epicardial coronary arteries of patients dying of acute myocardial infarctionFree Access

Clinical study: acute myocardial infarction

J Am Coll Cardiol, 40 (9) 1579–1588



We sought to test the hypothesis of whether inflammatory cell infiltration in patients dying of an acute myocardial infarction (MI) is a multifocal event involving multiple coronary branches.


Coronary instability is thought to reflect local disruption of a single vulnerable plaque. However, previous postmortem studies have not addressed the question of whether activation of inflammatory cells, particularly T lymphocytes, is limited to the culprit lesion only or rather diffuse in the coronary circulation.


We performed a systematic flow cytometric study in three groups of autopsied patients (group 1 = acute MI; group 2 = old MI; group 3 = no ischemic heart disease). Cell suspensions of enzymatically digested coronary arteries were stained for flow cytometry with CD3, CD68, alpha-smooth muscle actin, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR antibodies.


The coronary plaques showed: 1) a higher proportion of inflammatory cells in groups 1 and 2 than in group 3; 2) a higher percentage of T lymphocytes in group 1 than in group 2 (11.67 ± 0.70% vs. 5.67 ± 0.74%, p = 0.001) and in group 2 than in group 3 (p = 0.008); and 3) diffuse cell activation in the whole coronary tree of group 1, but not of group 2 subjects.


Our study suggests that lymphocytes may play a key role in coronary instability by determining activation of various cellular types throughout the coronary circulation. Activated T lymphocytes and their products may well represent a new target in both the treatment and prevention of acute coronary syndromes.