Loss of flow-mediated endothelium-dependent dilation occurs early in the development of atherosclerosis.
BACKGROUND Healthy arteries exhibit endothelium-dependent dilation in response to both local acetylcholine and increased blood flow. In humans, clinically overt coronary artery disease is characterized by loss of dilation to both acetylcholine and blood flow. The temporal relation, however, between functional abnormalities of the endothelium and the development of atherosclerosis has not been established.
METHODS AND RESULTS We examined endothelial vasodilator function in vivo at an early stage of the development of atherosclerosis. Two groups of seven Macaca fascicularis monkeys were studied; one group was fed a high cholesterol diet (0.73-1.0 mg cholesterol per calorie) for 11 months. Cholesterol feeding was associated with increased plasma cholesterol levels and with intimal thickening of the iliac arteries but with no reduction in luminal diameter. Endothelium-dependent vasomotor responses of the iliac arteries were then examined in vivo by quantitative contrast angiography. Acetylcholine produced significant dilation in the controls but paradoxical constriction in the group with early atherosclerosis (+9.0 +/- 3.2% versus -5.3 +/- 5.4%, p less than 0.05). In response to a twofold increase in blood flow achieved by administering adenosine distal to the arterial segment under examination, the controls again dilated, whereas the atherosclerotic group failed to dilate (+ 11.6 +/- 2.1% versus + 0.5 +/- 2.4%, p less than 0.05). Both groups, however, were able to dilate, and dilated equally, to the nonendothelium-dependent agent nitroglycerin (+ 13.7 +/- 4.8% versus + 19.1 +/- 4.3%, NS).
CONCLUSIONS Endothelium-dependent vasodilation in response to both acetylcholine and increased blood flow may be lost early in the course of developing atherosclerosis before the appearance of stenosing and occlusive disease.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association