The heart is one of the most demanding organs of the human body. The high nutrient and oxygen demands need to be met through an adequate vascularization of the myocardium. In fact, the myocardium vascular supply is achieved through an extensive vascular network that includes larger arteries, also known as coronary arteries, smaller arteries (arterioles) and capillaries. This set of arterioles and capillaries is known as microcirculation. Coronary artery disease is usually associated with larger epicardial coronary arteries. However, several studies have shown an important role of coronary microvascular dysfunction. This review aimed to explore the (a) morphology, with particular interest on the anatomical and histological aspects; (b) physiology, providing an insight on the several endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent regulatory mechanisms; and (c) pathophysiology of the cardiac microcirculation, with a special focus on the changes in the regulatory mechanisms, on the atherogenesis and on the correlation to the systemic cardiovascular disease.
Part of the book: Microcirculation Revisited