Coronary embolic phenomena (CEP) are difficult to diagnose yet carry potentially devastating clinical consequences. The goal of this chapter is to outline key processes and pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying CEP, primarily in the context of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Not surprisingly, most reported cases of CEP occur in the left coronary circulation, but some right-sided events have been reported. Overall, causes include thrombotic, septic/infectious, neoplastic, valve-related, and iatrogenic mechanisms such as air embolization. Coronary angiography remains the definitive diagnostic and therapeutic approach, with computed tomography being increasingly utilized. Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) should be part of a routine work up for patients with suspected CEP. Holter/event monitoring for atrial fibrillation may also be indicated in patients with embolic phenomena. Clinical management includes procedural restoration of coronary blood flow, followed by appropriate anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy, in conjunction with appropriate treatment of any arrhythmias or other associated cardiac manifestations or conditions. Timely diagnosis, based on a high index of suspicion (especially in high-risk population) may be important in improving morbidity and mortality in affected patients. Since CEPs are often underdiagnosed and may be due to a number of heterogeneous causes, the need arises for increasing provider awareness of these important phenomena, as well as for the implementation of appropriate clinical management guidelines.
Part of the book: Embolic Disease